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Deconstructing 8 Washington

In an otherwise stunningly dull election season, the biggest battle on the November ballot is about—you guessed it—development.

The fight over 8 Washington—a 136-foot-tall waterfront project that would house condos, retail, and restaurants—is a doozy, having pulled nearly every political player in the city into the fray. If the propositions fail—yup, there are two—they stand to set a messy precedent for a slew of other projects in the pipeline. Here, an attempt to make sense of some of the political theater

ANTI

David Chiu
Supervisor representing District Three, which contains 8 Washington; president of the Board of Supervisors
What he says: “This project is nowhere near where it needs to be for the City and County of San Francisco.” (To the Chronicle, 6/12/2012)
What he means: “The developers rudely ignored my attempts to forge an impossible compromise with the Angry Rich Owners (see below). Also, I’m running for Assembly and really need the support of eastside NIMBY s who oppose the project.”

The Angry Rich Owners
Boston Properties (owner of the Embarcadero Center) and Richard Stewart (property owner at Golden Gateway), donors of a combined $448,000 to the No Wall on the Waterfront campaign
What they say: The building is too high; there should be affordable housing onsite; and this is another “brick in the wall.”
What they mean: “We already have our buildings, so screw everyone else.”

Aaron Peskin
Former supervisor representing District Three
What he says: “8 Washington is an assault on the identity and accessibility of our city’s waterfront.”
What he means: “This project is an assault on the ego of the person who gets to decide what gets built on the waterfront. And that person should be me.”

Art Agnos
Former mayor
What he says: “When I made the decision to demolish the monstrous double-deck Embarcadero Freeway in 1990, it cost me votes when I ran for reelection. I lost, but the ever-more-beautiful waterfront has become a magnificent destination for visitors and residents alike.” (To the Chronicle, 4/21/2013)
What he means: “Because people know me as the creator of the ‘Camp Agnos’ homelesspalooza that actually cost me reelection, I’m hoping that if I keep taking credit for demolishing the Embarcadero Freeway, people will believe that it is my real legacy. “

Louise Renne
Former supervisor and resident of Golden Gate Commons, which is adjacent to 8 Washington (her view would not be impacted)
What she says: “I totally disagree with the Planning Department and the Planning Commission on this. If you put that project on Van Ness, I’d be just fine. But putting it on the waterfront is not fine as far as I’m concerned.”
What she means: Exactly what she said.

 

PRO

Simon Snellgrove and Alicia Allbin
Masterminds at Pacific Waterfront Partners, the project’s developers (along with the California State Teachers’ Retirement System)
What they say: “Vote yes for parks, jobs, and housing.”
What they mean: “We’re hoping that you’ll ignore the part about how these are expensive condos for superrich people.”

Gavin Newsom
Former mayor and current lieutenant governor
What he says: “With Proposition B, we can take the next step in building a better neighborhood.”
What he means: “I’m so bored.”

CalSTRS
Comprises 99 percent of the partnership that is developing 8 Washington.
What they say: “We are optimistic.”
What they mean: “The fund is already on track to need a government bailout in 2016, so this public loss of funds would be very, very bad.”

Ed Lee
Mayor
What he says: “The plan is part of the larger revitalization of the waterfront.” (To the Chronicle, 9/22/2013)
What he means: “More development means more tax revenue, which means I’m Santa at budget time, which means that everyone loves me.”

San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council
A group of 28 trade unions that provide much of the construction labor in the city
What they say: “Proposition B is good for this city.”
What they mean: “We’d put the Embarcadero Freeway back up if it meant jobs for our members.”

 

Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco

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