The State’s legal challenge of San Francisco’s Proposition B, the voter-approved “No Wall on the Waterfront” measure which maintains existing height limits for waterfront property under the control of the Port of San Francisco unless a project specific up-zoning is approved in a public vote, has survived the City’s motion for an outright dismissal.

While San Francisco Superior Court judge Suzanne Bolanos did dismiss one of the State’s central claims, she left the door open for the lawsuit to proceed and argue the economic harm of the measure.

From San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera:

I am pleased that the court dismissed the State’s claim that Proposition B conflicts with the City’s Charter and held that Proposition B on its face is consistent with the Burton Act. This ruling upholds the power of San Francisco and its voters over building heights on the City’s waterfront, and is in keeping with over 45 years of land use regulation in San Francisco. The City Attorney’s Office is prepared to respond to the court’s request to address the actual impact of Proposition B and to show that the State cannot demonstrate that Proposition B currently so burdens the Port as to be preempted by state law. Indeed, the voters’ approval last November of the height increase for Pier 70 demonstrates that Proposition B is valid on its face.

The next hearing on the matter is expected to occur in May.

19 thoughts on “Challenge Of Waterfront Height Limit Measure Survives First Ruling”
  1. all this will do if it is recinded is a guarantee that every proposal for devlopment along the waterfront will be put to a vote.

    1. Uh no, if the court rules for the State, then none of the (Port-based) lot development could be put to a vote.

  2. Which is exactly what Prob B. currently does. So what is it that you’re getting at? Don’t challenge something that is wrong because you’re going to get a fight from the anti-height, Peskin and Agnos cabal?

  3. @DoDo To be clear…. this is only applicable to developments seeking any height increases, but any projects within currently zoned heights are not subject to a vote.

    Obviously plenty of devs in the city request height increases, so… maybe this will stir the pot more than necessary.

  4. If some do not like Proposition B, get petitions signed and place your proposal overturning it on the ballot.
    You don’t want to place your proposal on the ballot because the voters would not approve?
    Thought so.

    1. The whole “pose a question, pause, then say ‘thought so’ ” thing doesn’t really work in written form, especially in a single comment.

  5. The idea that the public gets to “vote” on what someone does with their own private property is just inane – and exactly why the entire state is in the middle of a housing crisis. Imagine if every neighborhood got to vote on exactly what kind of cars people in the neighborhood could own or drive, how many were allowed to be owned within the neighborhood, what color they had to be, etc. Such a proposal would be treated as complete drivel because it would cost $200,000 just to own a beat up Honda Civic.

    But when it comes to real estate – oh no! heavens to betsy but we all get to have a “say”.

    1. there are people who want to do this. there seems to be a strong vocal minority of utopians that want to ban cars altogether, and they seem to ahve the city’s ear

  6. It’s precisely because people don’t trust the “professionals” (ie, developers, their architects, and the boosters on this site) on what the city should look like that the public gets to vote.

    1. So why not extend that to everything? The cars on the street. The clothing people wear. The pets they own.

      This specific law deals with Port owned (public) property. But San Franciscans have this inane idea that they a “right” to dictate what other people do with their private property.

      And the are astonished when no one can afford to live here.

      1. “But San Franciscans have this inane idea that they have a ‘right’ to dictate what other people do with their private property”.

        Laws. Zoning. What crazy ideas! There’s a place with no zoning and it’s called Houston. Not too many San Franciscans that I’m aware of are clamoring to move there…not even the promoters of unfettered capitalism who comment here.

        As I understand it, Prop. B requires developers seeking to be exempted from existing height controls along the waterfront to put it up for a public vote. Given the importance of the waterfront to *everyone* who lives in San Francisco, that doesn’t seem unreasonable.

        Nobody is interested in voting on the car you drive or the pet you own. That is an “appeal to ridicule” fallacy.

        And for the record, nobody has proposed to build “affordable” housing on the waterfront (you would probably be opposed to that, anyway). That is a “straw man” fallacy.

    2. JB10 is exactly right. This concept is called “regulatory capture” – government bodies designed to oversee and regulate private interests, here developers, often end up simply doing the bidding of those private interests at the expense of the public. San Francisco voters are neither stupid nor naive. It was not that long ago that “permit expediters” (i.e. bribers) were common and almost necessary to get something through planning. We have a really beautiful waterfront, and that is important to the vast majority of residents. One ill-conceived large project on the waterfront could ruin it for a century or more. Think Montparnasse tower in Paris. No way are the voters going to trust :the professionals” on this, nor should they.

      As for the argument that “no one can afford to live here,” the SF population is growing quite rapidly. It is true that a lot of people cannot afford to live here, but plenty (many would say more than enough) clearly can.

  7. Instead of ballot vote, why not change the current zoning in the whole city and increase the height limit for everyone? Or for some districts? This will allow more housing to be built and it is only a city government decision.

  8. All the rigorous and lengthy planning done by the city planning department, which by the way have the education and the cities best interests in mind, is all thrown out the window by allowing the general public to vote on these propositions. This is just exhausting after a while and I don’t understand why *anyone* feels that their personal interest and opinion should be more valued than those who make it their life work to implement and plan for this city on our behalf. I personally wouldn’t want someone unqualified telling me how to do my job.

    1. Your premise is flawed. They don’t have (and are not required to have) any particular education, and they don’t necessarily have the city’s best interest in mind. Also, no one person’s “personal interest and opinion” is “more valued” than Planning. But plainly the will of the collective voters should have great weight on big issues like the future of the waterfront.

      1. All very true but, unfortunately, the “will of the collective” electorate proved to be based upon totally flawed premises of their own on 8 Washington. Too important to allow for repeated such failures. I hope the bureaucrats win on their challenge to B’s legitimacy.

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