8 Washington Rendering circa 2012

Despite having been approved by San Francisco’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors in 2012, the planned development of 134 condos at 8 Washington Street was blocked by voters in 2013.  And last week, a judge delivered another blow.

As approved, the 8 Washington project included an increase in the height limit for the rear of the parcel, from 8-stories to 12-stories on one corner, in exchange for lower heights along the Embarcadero, a trade-off which Planning Department, with input from the community, had requested.  And it was specifically this increase in height which ballot Measure C then blocked.

The 8 Washington parcel, however, remains zoned for building up to 8-stories in height.  And as we first reported last year, the development team led by Pacific Waterfront Partners has been planning to re-submit code compliant plans for an 8-story development on the site.  But as a plugged-in reader succinctly reported when Measure C passed:

It’s no done deal that the developer can just build an 84′ project [on the site]. The project was entitled as designed. It would have to go thru years of redesign, a new [Environmental Impact Report], [and] hearings at every commission that previously approved the prior plan.

The project was initially designed as an 84′ project. After 17 months of “community planning” workshops, the community and the Planning Department convinced the developer to step the height up in the back and down in the front. The same people who put [Measure] C on the ballot opposed the 84′ project and would probably put that on the ballot, this time saying it should be 40′.

Whether the developer or their financial partners (CalSTRS) are up for [another battle] remains to be seen. And what other developer would walk into this now? We may have another 10 or 15 years of parking lot and fenced club.

Seeking to ensure that Pacific Waterfront Partners would, in fact, be waylaid and effectively have to start from scratch, the aforementioned people behind Measure C preemptively filed suit to overturn all previous approvals and groundwork for the development.

And on Friday, Superior Court Judge James Robertson ruled that the project’s previously approved Environmental Impact Report (EIR) relied on old and incomplete data with respect to traffic and parking and ordered that all past approvals and certified reports for the project be set aside.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Zoner

    If the project is within current zoning, the Planning Department should not allow a project to go through an EIR process. It should be a Mitigated Negative Declaration. Lets build this.

    • Posted by LoPo

      It’s state law.

      • Posted by Zig

        Is it? I thought a neg dec was also State law

  2. Posted by BTinSF

    Keep the site barren because some day San Francisco will be forced to get over its NIMBYism and much taller towers can then be built on the site. Wish I would be around to see them.

    • Posted by Mark

      Is NIMBYism just a term for caring what goes on in your city and neighborhood? Isn’t this just engaged public politics?

      • Posted by Me

        If it were then you would spend time on solving the homeless, drug, and murder problem plaguing SF, but you don’t, so no, it is simply selfish NIMBYism trying to preserve rich people’s views, nothing else.

        • Posted by Mark

          More like wealthy NIMBYs trying to preserve their views from other wealthy NIMBYs. It’s gone way past NIMBYism of yore when it was based more on race, religion or socio-economic status.

          • Posted by Orland

            However it got on the ballot, that vote was one of the most sorry, shameful episodes in the history of SF. An electorate stampeded by ignorance, falsehoods and prejudice. Disgusting and embarrassing in equal measures.

      • Posted by Frog

        I think the problem with NIMBYism is that it takes a problem, often one that the NIMBYs agree is a problem, and then they try to place the pain of a solution on others. It’s the opposite of community.

        • Posted by Moto mayhem


        • Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

          Yes, that is a very good definition. Simply disagreeing with a development does not a NIMBY make.

        • Posted by Jon Schwark

          +++ this

        • Posted by Orland

          You also cannot overstate the role of dogma in the determination of what constitutes a “problem. “

  3. Posted by Brian M

    Given its waterfront location, by the time the site could be entitled, might it be underwater anyway?

    (I kid. i kid.)

    • Posted by Amewsed

      The project will be renamed the Floating Towers.

  4. Posted by JR "Bob" Dobbs

    This one doesn’t sound like NIMBYism. Sounds like they just screwed up, or tried to cut corners, on the EIR. Have to comply with the law, and can’t scream “NIMBY!” if you don’t. I don’t care if they build this or leave it as is. But I must say that I’m glad my view at work will remain unobstructed by this for a while longer.

  5. Posted by Sierrajeff

    Well in less than 2 decades I’ll retire, at which point we can’t afford to live here any more – so I guess I should just stop caring about things like this (and the Geary subway, 2nd bay tube, Caltrain to Transbay, etc.), given that there’s low odds of me ever actually seeing any of them happen. I’ll just leave the NIMBYs to stew in the City that they create…

    • Posted by Amewsed

      +100 (I can afford to live here but choose not to.) Glad my mom is in a better place so she doesn’t have to witness this crap show.

      In the meantime, I like to see this project built to 168 ft. high.

      • Posted by Pcbnsf

        Apparently you still like to “witness this crap show” if you don’t live here but read the site and feel compelled to provide your compelling comments.

  6. Posted by MSTBLD

    I thought that the various reforms of CEQA changed the rules relating to covering traffic analysis in EIRs. Is this judgement behind the times.

    • Posted by phil

      The EIR was done before the switch form Level of Service (LOS) to Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). The EIR used flawed methodology based on outdated studies. It was either a shady process or gross incompentance, and deserved the challenge.

  7. Posted by Observer

    This is a tough break, the law is the law but one had to look at this site and say how many times have San Francisco’s own laws been broken by San Francisco. This was a permitted site that lost the ability to pursue construction because…oh wait for it… San Francisco…

  8. Posted by Jim

    134 condos would engender an imperceptible amount of traffic on surrounding streets. The Planning Department knew this and specified the studies to be done by the developer, which they did. Yet another example of legalistic planning by a judge who knows nothing of the subject matter.

    • Posted by Orland

      Absolutely true. A traffic impact study for this project is nothing but filler.

  9. Posted by anon

    Hopefully the Port and developers have finally learned its lesson, but I doubt it. Citizens along the Waterfront are going to be much more active in the future, not less active.

    Some of the developers on this board somehow think that “nimbys” will ultimately feel ashamed that there will still be a parking lot on that site for many years. Far from it! Time for some bottle-popping.

    • Posted by cfb

      You really think keeping a parking lot/fancy tennis club is better for the city than adding 134 much-needed housing units and a new park? The city is in a housing crisis. That means there’s not enough housing. How does building less housing help the city, aside from helping already well-off people who like the increased property values that comes from restricted supply?

      • Posted by Sierrajeff

        Exactly. It’s embarassing that the first thing tourists see, walking north from the Ferry Building, is a fugly parking lot and the back-side of the fencing to the private tennis and pool facility. And also exactly right that the Telegraph Hill folks should welcome *nice* development here, as it would only increase property values all around (by eliminating that parking lot and fugly fencing).

      • Posted by d-b

        The promised “park” did not amount to much and the developer wanted to narrow Washington Street (which would have increased traffic congestion) to provide a large sidewalk for his restaurants) instead of actually moving his proposed building back from the existing southern property line.

        • Posted by Sierrajeff

          Well my office looks directly down on that intersection, and I can tell you there’s no reason for Washington to be 2 lanes each way between The Embarcadero and Drumm – even now, as I write at 8:10 a.m. (i.e., rush hour), there is *zero* traffic there. And Washington is only one, one-way lane for 2 or 3 blocks west of Drumm (and it works just fine, based on years of my observing it and even using it), so again, unclear why you’d be hand-wringing over narrowing Washington here too.

  10. Posted by jamesjr

    Eight stories on the Embarcadero is hardly an outrage. The YMCA building comes to mind as do numerous others. The ballot measure, the misleading campaign (“wall on the water”), rich people protecting their views behind the charade of environmental concern, a developer who was treated like bilge: It is shameful. I will outlive Art and Company to see the day this project resurrected, and hopefully, ENLARGED.

    • Posted by kbbl

      I actually saw Art earlier this week — same jury pool. He seems to be in pretty good health. Stay patient.

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