Two propositions that would allow for luxurious high-rise condominiums in the Embarcadero are proving divisive in the Mission, according to interviews with voters.
Propositions B and C, which are both on the ballot for today’s municipal election, would allow for an exception to a San Francisco zoning law that restricts the height of buildings.
“I’m down on B and C!” yelled one lady leaving St. James Church in a near sprint, afraid of being late for work. “High rises in the Embarcadero? No way!”
By 11 a.m. as few as 37 people had turned up at St. James Church in the Mission to vote. Those who did come out, however, felt compelled by a sense of need to cast votes that will decide Propositions B and C.
Proposition B is a ballot initiative filed by the developer of the high-rise condominiums at 8 Washington St. It would allow for an increase in building height, as well as myriad other things, including ground floor retail and a park. Proposition C is asking voters to agree with an ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors to allow a height increase in zoning law for 8 Washington St.
“Prop B is a big one,” said Rob Bell who enthusiastically voted for both Propositions B and C. “The argument that the property would be too high is deceptive. Only one part of the building would be that high.”
In fact, it’s two portions of the building that would be taller than opponents would like. The developers of the proposed project, Pacific Waterfront Partners, want to extend a portion of the building from 84 feet to 92 feet, and yet another portion of the building to 136 feet. The 84-foot limit is the current limit for building height in the Embarcadero according to zoning code.
“That’s just nonsense,” said a longtime Mission resident and voter who would only give his name as Ron. “It doesn’t affect me one iota, but to think of that building cutting off views—it’s just greed.”
As Ron exited the polling station, he dashed down the street and angrily confronted a man holding a sign in support of Proposition B. That man happened to be Riccardo Ortiz, a laborer from Mexico who can’t vote, but was there because his union, Local 261, said he should support the proposition.
“I don’t have much information,” said Ortiz when asked if he himself supports the proposition. However, he knows that if it passes, he will get work.
Proponents of Propositions B and C say that the project would create 240 construction jobs and 140 permanent jobs. This has caused labor unions around San Francisco to throw their support behind the change in height.
The possibility of creating more jobs also made some voters who are opposed to increasing the height think twice.
Mellissa Daar Carvajal who voted at the Mission Police Department this morning, thought that it would be a shame to block views of the bay with the proposed construction. However, she didn’t want to deny people jobs and work and felt torn between a yes and no vote.
Ultimately it was learning that Supervisor David Campos opposed the proposed legislation and her informed neighbor that swayed her to vote against the propositions.
Others, like 26-year-old software developer, Kyle Gong, liked the propositions. “I think it’d be nice if affordable housing was built into the structure, but ultimately you just want to increase the supply of housing,” he said.
Gong’s logic was that more living units means less of a housing shortage and therefore a drop in prices.
Maria Costelloe, on the other hand, voted against both propositions precisely because housing is too expensive here. “I want more affordable housing here, not luxury apartments,” Costelloe said. “I definitely feel that people like myself, in the middle, are being pushed [out of the city].”
She said a friend of hers recently had the rent on her one bedroom raised by $2,400 a month. She can’t afford to pay it and will need to move, Costelloe said.
“It stinks of Willie Brown crony-ism,” said voter Peter Tsaykel, referring to San Francisco’s onetime mayor who is often perceived as having been involved in crooked back-room deals. “Most people in San Francisco want luxury high-rises,” Tsaykel said, despairing that his vote may not matter. “We’ll see what happens.”
Indeed, what’s looking to be a low-turnout election, by all accounts, will conclude tonight at 8 p.m. and later in the night, the outcome should be known.
Luis Montealegre, a poll worker at St. James Church, had a plea to voters: “I don’t want my city ruined, I don’t want a wall there.”