An aerial view of San Francisco's waterfront.

The battle over development on San Francisco’s waterfront is heading back to the ballot. Proposition B would require that waterfront projects be approved by voters if they exceed zoned height limits. Supporters say the measure is needed to protect waterfront views and safeguard the character of the city. But critics contend that Prop. B would threaten the construction of affordable housing units and revenue for the Port of San Francisco. We debate the measure, which comes before the city’s voters on June 3.

Art Agnos, former mayor of San Francisco and a supporter of Prop. B
Patrick Valentino, community activist, real estate lawyer and spokesperson for No on Prop. B

  • Guest

    Have San Francisco developers turned over a new leaf, or changed their stripes, or decided they have a heart? I was under the impression that affordable housing was the last thing that developers wanted to build in San Francisco, or even the Bay Area.

  • thucy

    Credit where due: Many many thanks to Forum for having Agnos as a guest. Alongside Jeff Adachi, he’s one of the last good guys in SF politics, and he paid a price for it.

    • Andy Stock

      I’m for voter approval. Furthermore, there is a Port stipulation that development be water related. Like boating fishing swimming and other activities of this nature.

  • Chemist150

    You should build slums on the edge of the water in order to give incoming guest the appropriate impression.

  • Lance

    The excuse of affordable housing on a water front is laughable. No investor would throw their money to the wind for the underemployed.This is about building high return condos, though I’m betting on micro apartments with hilarious rental pricing. If people thought the $5k a month price tag for a downtown rental was silly just wait till it’s $5k for half that space.

    • catherine L

      Truly. There are SO many other places to build affordable housing. Every time, we have to remind City Hall that the open waterfront views benefit all of us, far beyond a few houses or a swap of funds for affordable housing.

  • ES Trader

    Agnos, the ex-Mayor should be tarred, feathered and sent out the GGBr never to be seen again for his opposition to the Warriors arena at pier 32.

    The objections, traffic & height are simply excuses

    1) The NBA & MLB schedule only overlaps in April and neither the Warriors nor the Giants play all April games at home. So how much overlap will there really be? Madison Sq. Garden in NYC is right on top of Penn Station on the lower end of midtown Manhatten but it is a mecca of arenas w/out objections to traffic

    2) The arena as a Bay view obstruction? Come on its not the Great Wall of China extending drom ATT Park to Fisherman’s Wharf. If the ex Mayor had his way the Bay Bridge, the Ferry Bldg and the skyscrapers, that make the SF skyline would never have been built.

    If he were so concerned about waterfront views, why didn’t he move to tear down the Embarcadero Fway before Loma Prieta forced the removal. Just what did you do for The City as mayor anyway?

    City regulations on buildings regulating shadows that buildings cast may me well intentioned but detract from progress into the 21st Century that will eventually happen.

    Letting the Americas Cup sail to Hawaii is another lost opportunity for tourism because of the myopic sight of Agnos and his group.

  • Ben Rawner

    The attorney is totally changing the argument. This isn’t about the perks for the ciy that come with building housing. The rules are the rules for a reason and if u want to change them let the people say yes or no. The attorney makes it sound like the height limit is somehow wrong. It’s not wrong it’s the law for the reason. It seems like the attorney and his cadre are just upset about losing 8 Washington and are desperately trying to rally after the loss.

  • Saul Bloom

    Prop B gives San Francisco a voice in the decisions City Hall and its
    patrons want to keep to themselves. Pro development forces always use
    affordable housing as a cudgel to bash those of us who see a different
    future for San Francisco. Unfortunately they rarely explain that the
    promised affordable housing almost always comes years after the market
    rate housing gets built. Developers almost never pay for affordable
    housing out of pocket – it is the revenues from the market rates that
    pays for the affordables. Even so, once entitled developers argue to
    lessen their affordable housing commitment. Look at the Lennar Shipyard
    agreement and its six amendments since 2004 as but one bit of
    evidence. With pols like David Chiu holding up and potentially
    derailing the reappointment of Planning Commissioners Moore and Sugaya –
    the only professional planners and architects on the Commission –
    residents of San Francisco need to secure our voices if we are to have a
    City for all of us.

  • ES Trader

    If SF voters saw the wisdom of a China Basin ballpark in the early 89, Bob Lurie would still own the Giants.

    Agnos and his supporters want The City to be known as The Village or better The Hamlet

    Relying on public vote for civic improvement projects is like letting children choose meals, entertainment etc

  • YA

    The public’s primary concern over waterfront development should not be focused on height limits but rather on public access. The general public is much more interested in waterfront experience than potentially blocking a narrow view from an office or million dollar apartment balcony. Take a look at the new development happening along Copenhagen’s waterfront. It is a perfect example of how a beautiful waterfront can be developed but remain accessible to the greater public.

  • catherine L

    What SF’ers really want is to keep the waterfront views open for all. Now that the freeway came down, the open waterfront is one of the greatest, FREE, places to be.

    Does Prop B help us keep open waterfront? Does CEQA consider the quality of life benefit we get from open waterfront views?

    (I wonder: I think developers see “empty” piers and space, where we see open space: light, sky, water. Do the developers think “view corridors” are as good as views?)

  • aacole

    I am confused about the current process. Is there a zoning plan that has to be followed? Why are exceptions allowed? What should come to the ballot box is a periodic update to the zoning plan for the water front as a whole.

    • jamiebronson

      agreed. Agnos wants to circumvent that process by making all building proposals along the water front that are above a certain height go to a public vote. If Agnos thinks all the city departments are so corrupt then why not put all city business to a public vote?

      • aacole

        I don’t think Agnos wants all city business up to a public vote (not sure what that comment means exactly). He is mostly concerned about the over-influence of certain sectors, (e.g., developers and Realtors), on the process and how that influence could alter the view-shed of the waterfront forever. IMHO, Given there is a neighborhood zoning plan with height limits, there should be no exceptions on height limits unless and until an updated neighborhood zoning plan is voted on by the public on a 5 year basis. That way SF voters have one plan upon which to vote every five years.

        • jamiebronson

          The point is if Agnos doesn’t trust city planning then why trust them at all? This is just an additional layer of bullshit. A once every 5 year plan would be great but voting on every single development is a waste of time and money.

  • Skip Conrad

    I was involved in a neighborhood effort to prevent the demolition of a small local school and it’s replacement with a 4 story building. Our neighborhood group was mentored by our Supervisor at the time, Leland Yee. The end result of our efforts was that the height of the new building was reduced from 4 stories to 3 stories. Yet he acted like this was a victory, and meanwhile the students had to go elsewhere, and the teachers and employees lost their jobs.

    Since then, I have long suspect that Supervisor Leland Yee took a payoff from the developers.

    Question. How quick are developers to pay off anyone who can facilitate the process? How quick are our official to take the cash? What can the ordinary citizen do?

  • Di Amato

    Hey this is a VOTE! Maybe the affordable housing project that they want to raise the height limits for wil be so wonderful and fit into the neighborhood that the people if SF VOTE for their project!

  • ES Trader

    the former mayor sounds like he is about to take a page from Gov Brown and run again

  • giardinidimarzo

    Of these two guests, who stands to make money if Prop B fails? Only 1 person, Patrick Valentino, partner in a commercial real estate practice. He is using spin and fear-mongering in a feeble attempt to scare SF voters. Look, the Green Party and Sierra Club would not stand behind Prop B if it meant the elimination of the environmental review process. He is a well-financed liar.

  • kimothyanne

    In speaking about “housing”, I wish the speakers would maintain some consistency as to whether they are speaking about affordable housing or just housing. Those can be, and currently are, two very different things.

  • jamiebronson

    Let’s be really productive and put all city business up for a vote. Prop B? What a stupid idea.

  • Derek Chadwick Henry

    Boston’s waterfront redevelopment is in my opinion a fair balance for all aspects of the community ….. if you’re interested in other mass waterfront redevelopment look at

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