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Supervisor Throws a Screwball at Giants' Dreamy Development

But is Jane Kim a Bumgarner? Or a Livan Hernandez?


The Giants' oh-so pretty proposal to pave a parking lot and put up a paradise near its stadium met with near universal approval when it was unveiled last month. Everyone from current Mayor Ed Lee to former Mayor Art Agnos—themselves very different types of politicians—came out in support.

But today, progressive supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the area of the city that includes AT&T Park, announced that she’s seeking to put a measure on the ballot in the fall to challenge those plans. Her proposal would cut the heights of some of the buildings in half and force the developers to subsidize a significantly higher percentage of housing units at below market rates. It’s a move that caught even some of her allies off guard, with Agnos likening it to a “wild pitch form a pretty good player.” It also puts Kim at odds with progressive leaders like Democratic Party Chairman John Burton and State Senator Mark Leno, who have indicated support for the Giants plan.

So what’s behind Kim’s proposal? Let’s run down some of the possibilities.

Jane Kim Hates Tall Buildings: Progressives have tended to oppose construction near the Embarcadero of relatively tall buildings—and been rewarded at the ballot box for doing so. The Giants plan would feature some buildings that would reach 240 feet, or about 22 stories. Kim’s plan would cap that height limit at 120 feet. On Twitter she said that the height limits could be decreased without changing the total amount of housing: “Less height does not equal less housing units. We can build as many units. [It is] not an either/or.”

Jane Kim Is Protecting Public Land: The Giants would be building on land owned by the city. That sets up good optics for any ballot measure that argues that the public should be receiving a better deal.

Jane Kim Wants to Shake Down More Affordable Housing: There’s a pretty brilliant negotiating maneuver that Kim may have just pulled off. Wait until the Giants are all in with their proposal and then raise the stakes against them. The Giants had agreed to set aside 33 percent of all units built as affordable to those making less than 140 percent of the area median income ($142,000 for a family of four). That’s right around the level that Kim wanted citywide in the ballot initiative that she passed last year (though it was just a nonbinding advisory measure). Now that the—mixed metaphor alert—Giants train is leaving the station, Kim’s move shifts the goalposts to 33 percent of the units affordable to families earning up to 120 percent of AMI, or $122,000 for a four-person household, and another 17 percent affordable to people making up to 150 percent of AMI. What that means is that the developers would be making less money off the units, because they’d be redirecting more of it towards subsidizing the BMR units. 

Jane Kim's a Crafty Politician: It’s widely-expected, but by no means guaranteed, that Kim will be running against moderate Supervisor Scott Wiener for the seat occupied by termed-out State Senator Mark Leno in 2016. If that happens, she’ll need to coalesce the left vote against a centrist opponent. Anything that gets Chris Daly to call it a “a bold and righteous proposal” is a good step towards that end. 

Jane Kim's a Closet Dodgers fan: Okay, this doesn't seem likely. But don’t think that Giants brass aren’t considering that possibility today. 


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