Proposition B Vote

With 100 percent of precincts having reported, San Francisco Proposition B which will require voter approval for any increase in the existing height limits for property currently under control of the Port of San Francisco has passed with 59.4% of ballots marked YES versus 40.6% marked NO.

Local Measure A which will allow the City to issue $400 million in bonds to finance Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response needs also passed with a vote of 79% YES / 21% NO.

And while the final voter turnout count will tick up a little as provisional and late mail-in votes are tallied, it likely won’t move more than a point.  And at 22.13%, San Francisco voters have set an embarrassing new record low.

Note: As we first reported earlier in the evening, the mail-in only vote for Proposition B was 59% Yes /41% No.

60 thoughts on “Proposition B To Limit Building Heights Passes: 59% Yes / 41% No”
  1. I am pro development, pro height, but even I wouldn’t want high rises on the waterfront a la Shanghai. This passing doesn’t upset me much.

  2. But building some new expensive condo towers will drive down prices of regular homes across, uh, the whole, uh, city, won’t they… well that doesn’t make much sense.

    And the sheep-like SF voters will never, ever, never approve any tall, uh, buildings near the, uh, water, except… well, the only time they were ever presented with the question and, well, they broadly approved AT&T Park.

    And we should leave important development decisions to our wise and democratically-elected leaders, except, well, 99% of them refused to, uhh, take a public stand on, well, you know, this very critical, future-threatening ballot proposition.

    Awww, sh*t, there must be some reason to be against this Prop B.

      1. It’s not absurd when elected and unelected officials blatently ignore the will of voters to follow the bidding of developers and unions.

        Thanks to Ed Lee, The Golden State Warriors, and Simon Snellgrove for getting Prop B passed!

        1. Sorry, still absurd. If elected officials blatantly ignore the will of the voters then vote them out. If unelected officials blatantly ignore the will of the voters, vote out the elected officials that ultimately decide whether they have a job. This ain’t rocket science. Either we should go all in with direct democracy or stay with representative democracy, not this bizarre world where we PAY all of these elected folks and then complain about them being terrible and override them anyway.

          1. This. Setting aside the other arguments – the potential unconstitutionality, the fact that Prop B will lead to *more* of a “wall on the waterfront” than isolated higher towers – this is the basic principle. If you don’t like what your government is doing, change the government. Don’t institute a system where large, complex decisions have to be reduced to a sound bite and put to a general vote.

    1. “And the sheep-like SF voters will never, ever, never approve any tall, uh, buildings near the, uh, water, except… well, the only time they were ever presented with the question and, well, they broadly approved AT&T Park.”

      That’s not true. Voters were presented with this question last year and they rejected a height increase for just one corner of the 8 Washington project!

  3. Looks like Chiu is beating [Campos] too. Yay! Clearly a race of the lesser of two evils. Hope chiu pulls it off in November too. And maybe, just maybe, he will remember that property owners turned out for him…

  4. Just asking, but what’s to stop the powers that be (BoS; other entities?) from going back and revisiting the zoning heights for port properties like SWL337 or Pier 70 – both of which were targeted by Prop B, and rezoning them to heights that will allow development as currently envisioned and thereby negating a vote by the public?

    1. What will stop them from rezoning heights is the fact they wish to be re-elected and there is a general anxiety over development at the moment. Ignoring the will of voters doesn’t play well with voters and provides ammunition for their opponents

      1. anon1 tells us above that elected officials ignore the will of the voters all the time, hence the need for propositions. Now you’re telling us that we can vote them out. What? Which one of you is wrong?

        1. Also, Prop B freezes the zoning as of (I think) Jan 1, 2014. So the city [cannot] re-zone around this.

    2. Measure To Limit Waterfront Building Heights Summarized: “This measure would prevent any City agency or office from permitting development on the waterfront to exceed the height limit in effect as of January 1, 2014, unless the City’s voters approve the height limit increase. The measure defines “waterfront” as public trust property that the State transferred to the City to be placed under the control of the San Francisco Port Commission, as well as any other property that the Port owns or controls as of January 1, 2014 or later acquires.”

  5. Fine. (Throws up hands.) So we’ll be a suburban-scale city with bus “rapid transit” lanes and traffic-chocked “boulevards”. Will make it that much more exciting to visit real cities and see what life is like in the 21st century.

    1. Also, no high-speed rail – ’cause let’s face it, the voters are never going to approve additional spending for that. Not in this poisoned political climate.

  6. I was torn on this but voted Yes (torn because I’m not a fan of the initiative process generally and vote No on 95% of them for that reason). But with this one, it is too easy to, um, influence a handful of city bureaucrats to trust them with a decision that could screw up the waterfront forever. Much harder (though not impossible) to bribe the entire voting population. “Voting them out” after a few ugly buildings are already up and ruining the waterfront is not really a viable option.

  7. I don’t really expect this to change that much to be honest. I think it’s largely symbolic, if this failed then any serious waterfront project would likely get a ballot initiative like 8 Washington. So ultimately, I think it was very silly and ridiculous that this passed, but I don’t really think the effect will be that great.

  8. lots of money has been and will be wasted on these proposition campaigns that could be used to fund the affordable housing fund.

  9. Here was my dilema:

    Vote my conscience: NO. We need more housing and more density. It’s stupid to put every development to a city wide vote. This is NIMBYism run amock.

    Vote my financial interest: YES. This will limit new housing, and only increase the value of all my properties. Especially condos.

    And why I love SF: I get to vote NO, clear my conscience, AND everyone else takes care of optimizing my real estate investments. Thanks San Francisco! You know, this really is an awesome city to be a limousine liberal. And I actually hate that concept, but SF makes it soooo palatable….oh what to do, what to do?

    1. Same for me. I can’t understand how people can shoot themselves in the foot with these limitations, rent control, prop 13 and all the new rules that are added day after day. The reality is either way I am happy. The ones suffering are the San Franciscans paying me.

    2. lol I couldn’t have summarized this better myself. *toast* to the landlords that will just gain with all the NIMBYism going on.

  10. I hate to be a cynic, but did anybody truly think this was not going to pass? Two fantastic opportunities are now in real jeopardy, but what is more dangerous is that this sets a precedence for future ballot measures about raising height limits elsewhere. That is the real danger.

    What is really important to remember is that cities change. As transit, demographic, and desirability needs change, the zoning needs to change with them. Western SOMA originally had short zoning because it was a warehouse area and an afterthought. Now it is adjacent to one of the hottest areas of the city in terms of living, transport, innovation, working, development, etc. For citizens to not understand that zoning occasionally does need to change is beyond silly, but this is SF. It’s expected.

    Anything that is against sensible development, whether it is housing or commercial, in this crisis-level situation is ridiculous. I don’t want towers in Outer Sunset or Cole Valley or whatever, nobody does. But we do need to put them where it makes sense. Everybody is up in arms over skyrocketing housing prices and local businesses getting evicted, and yet people demand that not one drop of inventory for either use is added. It is so unreasonable that it is a bit beyond belief.

  11. So will the entire eastern side of SF from PacBell to Hunters Point essentially be developed akin to the San Francisco Shipyard Phase 1 project described in the next article below? Seems like a horrible and irresponsible waste of land resources. And will ultimately make those who own real estate currently more wealthy, those in rent controlled apartments more at risk of eviction, and traffic on freeways and BART even worse as thousands are economically persuaded to live in the East Bay. Fascinating

    1. So cry us all a big wet river because you’re not getting your Shanghai towers all over the city. Land is not there for the taking just to fill it up with super-talls.
      There are ALREADY many locations in SF identified and being developed now with appropriate high rise residential construction.

      The voters spoke and they don’t want our waterfront to become another mega development full of high rises. There is nothing at all wrong with new housing and developments in the 5-9 story range. Why do you think people love living in Paris and London? Appropriate human scale, that’s why. Most neighborhoods there are in the low to mid-rise height range, and it works perfectly.

      You want to talk about traffic getting worse, as your desire is simply to fill up SF with endless high rises available for anyone who wants to move here; and our public transit system remains in shambles. Whether existing real estate rises in value because of slower growth is irrelevant. It will rise in value because of DESIRABILITY.

      Let’s keep our city desirable, livable and work toward responsible growth together with improving our public transit system.

      1. Who’s proposing our waterfront be filled with mega-hirises? Where and what are these projects?

        1. I’m not sure if you’re aware of it or not but Paris and London are very wealthy and all of the middle class live in the suburbs. Normal folks can’t afford to live in the central city. Just like NYC and more and more so just like SF. The fewer the houses the higher the housing costs. Simply supply/demand economics.

          1. The point is that some people try to treat little 49 sq. mile San Francisco as though it has to provide all the neighborhoods and characteristics of cities 20 or 50 times its geographic size. If instead you think of S.F. as Manhattan or central London, with cheaper areas to live provided in Daly City and San Bruno and Oakland (Staten Island / Brooklyn; outer neighborhoods of London), then it becomes clear that it’s as ludicrous to try to shoehorn “middle class housing” into S.F. as it is to expect single family homes on the Upper West Side.

          2. Paris has smaller city limits than SF, yet three times as many people. I’d be fine with SF meeting that density and then having the rest of the region absorb others. Work for you?

    2. The backers of these bills are just lining their pockets by limiting growth and increasing the value of what they have. It’s called greed

  12. The “No on B” contingent has to deal with one critically important point. SF is an extremely pretty city as it is – the residents know it, and the whole world knows it.

    Of course, more developed cities can also be very pretty (see London). But people (i.e. voters) are understandably concerned about losing what is currently a very special place. They don’t trust local bureaucrats to protect this, and they certainly (and justifiably) are not going to trust developers. Simply insisting the voters are stupid, or naive, or sheep, or too uninformed to recognize their own best interests not only won’t be effective, but it is inaccurate. I knew and understood all the arguments extremely well. And I voted for this for what, I suspect are the same reasons a large majority voted for it.

    You want big development? Present solid, honest projects that won’t ruin the city’s beauty and views and aren’t designed to make the biggest bucks at the expense of the public, and you’ll have the support of the public – not of 100% but of a solid majority.

    1. Riiight…. The voters would have approved the Warriors arena in a heartbeat, and it was far more fugly and view-destroying than any towers proposed for the remaining seawall lots. And conversely, there’s nothing about the Giants’ proposal or Pier 70 that would offend the “city’s beauty” (what with them converting empty parking lots and warehouses to viable uses) – but now both of those projects are threatened, if not outright dead.

      1. Boo hoo. Design quality is absolutely irrelevant to height issues. But I would be happy with the arena in the original location.
        So, big deal. We don’t get an arena, we’re not gonna collapse into a 3rd world city.

        1. I’m hearing a new city slogan! “Big deal, it’s not like we’re gonna collapse into a 3rd world city”. It can be useful in so many ways:

          1. Dirty streets? Big deal, it’s not like we’re gonna collapse into a 3rd world city.
          2. Transit sucks? Big deal, it’s not like we’re gonna collapse into a 3rd world city.
          3. Government budget insanely bloated even with terrible levels of service? Big deal, it’s not like we’re gonna collapse into a 3rd world city.

          1. Come on anon. You know I agree with you on all 3 of those items you defined.
            Yes, we have terrible streets, both dirty and in need of repair.
            Yes, we have a terrible transit system, and yes we need to make it 1000% better with more lines and more metro extensions.
            Yes, we have a bloated budget, with terrible service and way over paid public employees.

            All of those are important and need to be solved. But not getting a big new arena is pretty low priority, IMO.

          2. But, but, all of those things are “big deals”. It’s not like we’re gonna collapse into a 3rd world city without fixing them.

    2. “You want big development? Present solid, honest projects that won’t ruin the city’s beauty and views and aren’t designed to make the biggest bucks at the expense of the public, and you’ll have the support of the public – not of 100% but of a solid majority.”

      That already happened with 8 Washington – and you see what happened there.

      1. No – 8 Washington was everything I said the voters are justifiably against. A twelve story high-rise of super-luxury condominiums by the water – homes for a small number of very wealthy, with great financial benefits to the developer, at the expense of lovely views for many. Pretty obvious why that one was shot down. They can still build a perfectly sizable building on that spot, just not an outlandish, ruinous building. Pretty reasonable imho. As I said above, those who simply insist that “development = good, people = stupid” are destined to be shot down over and over. Developers who get this message will do fine.

        1. No, a 15-story (I thought) tower *inland, next to an existing 22-story tower*, while along the Embarcadero only 4-story heights where 85 feet is currently zoned. All those people on here saying “good projects will still pass” are fooling themselves, 8 Washington was exactly such a project – in addition to the above, a pedestrian connection extending Jackson to Embarcadero. And it not only failed miserably, but started this whole fiasco.

        2. Uh, no. Only a portion of 8 Washington exceeded the height limit, and this portion was dwarfed by the surrounding buildings next to it. From the Embarcadero, the building height would have appeared to be only 4 stories. The “many” people who would have lost their views were a handful of condo owners who took that risk when they bought their units, and one couple pretty much bankrolled the ball that got rolling to shoot this project down.

        3. It should be noted as well that the developer brought forth a project that was fully within the height limits, only to be asked by the BOS to resubmit a plan that altered the makeup to be a taller building next to the existing tall buildings and a shorter building everywhere else. They did and this is what happened.

        4. I respect your viewpoints – but you are in the minority. That is my point. Those who get this will do fine. Those who don’t will lose time and again with the voters, who have the ultimate decision-making authority on how the city is going to be built.

          1. No, your point was that any developer who presented a “solid, honest, project” were get their project passed – and I used FACTS to show you that the 8 Washington developer did just that and got shot down. This isn’t just a difference of opinion.

          2. I don’t think we are in the “minority” the super rich developed a false campaign against 8 Washington and convinced some people to vote against their own interest. Presented fairly and with the whole city voting 8 Washington would’ve gone through

        5. At the expense of lovely views of “many”. Oh you mean the super wealthy rich condo owner nimbys. It didn’t block any views for normal folk . It wasn’t next to the water

          1. “Oh you mean the super wealthy rich condo owner nimbys. It didn’t block any views for normal folk.”

            You don’t have a clue about the opposition to 8 Washington, do you?

            First of all, the nearby condos go for maybe $2M+. That means that their owners are probably affluent but not in the “super wealthy rich” category that would buy a $15M mansion in Pacific Heights or the top-floor penthouse at the Millennium Tower.

            Secondly, you have the Gateway apartment complex across the street with something like 1200+ units. It’s rent controlled. A lot of people there have lived there for a long time and pay little in rent but have modest incomes. By and large, not big fans of this project without being “super wealthy rich”.

            Thirdly, you have the thousands of different people that use the Tennis & Swim Club for recreation every year. The club is a decidedly middle-class one. It doesn’t even have a cafeteria, so hardly a country-club for the rich. It provides a useful service in the form of providing recreational facilities much like Safeway provides a useful service by selling you groceries.

            So who is going to win a vote? A greedy developer who wants to build ultra-expensive condos for absentee owners? I think we know the answer.

    3. Curbing development where there is space is absolutely stupid.

      SF is a like a beauty queen at a pageant. She knows she doesn’t need selling, she does it on her own looks. But many pageant winners know they won’t live all their lives on looks alone. They need to prepare for what’s next.

      We are thriving today because the current wave of overachievers want livable cities, less suburbia, more culture. We do not need to do anything, we just need to be who we are. This is a very short-sighted strategy.

      The future for SF is making sure we keep bringing the best and brightest, and that they have a good reason to stay here. What if the downtown living turns around? What if people get tired after years in Google buses and high prices in smaller and smaller condos?

      We’ll be like an older beauty queen still shuffling around with her tiara and her gown, trying to figure what happened. Yeah, we had a good run. But we failed to BUILD for the future.

  13. Nice gloom and doom scenario. Love how you threw the drag queen into this.:) I mean beauty queen.
    We’re not curbing development: we’re just doing it responsibly and carefully. We’ve made it clear that we do not want Shanghai or Hong Kong to show up on our waterfront.

    And the “overachievers”, meaning the new, well to do generations DO want livable cities. Yes. Scaled appropriately. Say, like London, Paris, Amsterdam and Copenhagen has a few examples.

    We are building for our future, just not the Dallas/Houston/Miami future you and others would like us to be.

    1. Yeah you want to grow the city like Muni wants to grow its network.

  14. There is a pretty wide divide between Shanghai/Hong Kong and Copenhagen, though, don’t you think?

    Also, “human scale” San Francisco is thrown around far too liberally. Yes, Noe Valley and the Marina are human scale neighborhoods. But much of San Francisco is NOT “human scale”, in the sense of universal rows of 3-4 story tall buildings with a cute little street full of bakeries or whatever fantasy. Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Tenderloin, many parts of the Western Addition, Civic Center, the Van Ness corridor, Financial obviously, Yerba Buena, SOMA, Chinatown, these are fairly dense neighborhoods where 7-12 story buildings (many NOT new, built in 1900s and 1920s) are far from rare, and many have much higher buildings. And there were plenty of taller buildings comparable to the Venns and Lineas already on Market in Castro/Duboce/Hayes. There are 8 story buildings across from Alamo Square!! Can we stop drinking the Kool-Aid that San Francisco is defined by these universally accepted 4-story blocks? That’s not an actual reality!

    I am against rows of high-rises as well on the waterfront. However, what Pier 70 and 8 Washington and the Giants are proposing is really not destroying the fabric of preexisting San Francisco neighborhoods, it is not affecting the quality of life in the “human scale” neighborhoods, it is not displacing people already living there, it is not blocking views that people actually use (please tell me that these protestors consistently around Pier 70 and the Giants parking lots taking in these precious views), and in fact the plans for most of these places actually provide open space that enhance views and make them places that people would actually use.

    Yes, San Francisco has some of the country’s best human scale neighborhoods, neighborhoods that should never really be altered. But guess what. It is also Top 5, even without being adjusted for population, in terms of high-rises, skyscrapers, density (#2), etc. When you adjust per capita, then it shoots way higher in the rankings since those other cities are substantially larger and with higher populations. And our skyline has been domineering since the late 1970s/early 1980s!!

    What bothers me is this. I do not want to see high-rise towers in Cole Valley, Marina, Haight Ashbury, West Portal, whatever. I get that. Those neighborhoods need to be protected. But where people get frustrated is when those projections of 3-4 story human scale neighborhoods seem to be projected over our entire city. What human scale neighborhoods and iconic views would Pier 70 and the Giants project disrupt?? The newly created, 12 story high, office parks of Mission Bay? Give me a break.

    Stop fighting for an ideal and step back and see what the city actually is. This universally “human scale” city does not ACTUALLY EXIST. So can we stop promoting legislation that serves this ideal over the reality, which is a vibrant mix of phenomenally dense and quaint human scale neighborhoods?

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