Props B and C seemed to fuel voting.

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.”

Justin Richmond

Justin Richmond has been educated all over California, including Orange County, Los Angeles and Berkeley. It’s an experience, he says, that will help him cover community colleges and high schools. He's...

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15 Comments

  1. It is so sad that folks are so easily led like sheep. the “no” campaign was all funded to protect the views of a single couple who live next to the construction site — in a building much much taller than the new one proposed. The “no” campaign was so full of lies and mis-information it was amazing. I thought that surely the lies were so blatant that the smart folks of SF wouldn’t fall for that.

    Sadly they did. I now know that if you are rich, it is easy to get the sheep of san francisco to do what you want — and those sheep will be singing about stopping the rich all the way to the polls. So absurd.

  2. Aren’t the main funders and developers of the proposed project, the sponsors of Props B & C also rich? Yes. I bet richer than the couple who donated to the No on B & C effort.

    And they outspent the No on B & C side.

    Maybe the “sheep” thought for themselves. Maybe the “sheep” don’t want rampant development on the waterfront. Maybe the “sheep” believe that if development can exceed height limits there, then development can exceed height limits everywhere if the pay to play Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors approve.

    1. If we’re going to make every NIMBY planning conflict become a citywide issue, why do we even have a planning department? Referendums are a terrible way to handle zoning. Why should I get to decide whether people on the other side of town get a big grocery store?

    2. just to be clear — this would have been the shortest building in the surrounding area — hardly “rampant development”

      i know, facts are annoying, and it is comfortable to stay angry at everything and block all attempts to change — but really, I would encourage you to do some research next time before marching angrily to the picketline.

        1. but this site is inland from the waterfront — this is across the Embarcadero. Not public land, and currently no public access now. not that I care what private development is there. now it’s a private club.

      1. The fact is that the sponsors of B & C are wealthy real estate developers who couldn’t convince the “sheep” to support their propositions despite outspending their opponents and having the support of most of the elected political leaders in the city.

        That’s all the research I need. You seem to be the angry one in addition to being dismissive of the desires and abilities of the populace, or to use your word, the sheep.

        Baa baa.

        1. thanks landline. you just proved my point. like a good sheep, you didn’t do any *factual* research — you stopped at the emotional level. carry on believing that you are fighting the good fight while being a pawn in other peoples games.

          1. I research all the propositions before I vote. Your attitude turns the sheep into sheep in wolves’ clothing.

  3. I’m glad Ed Lee lost on this one. No to hoping that he doesn’t get his mitt on the land under City College of San Francisco. That’s a much bigger land grab than 8 Washington/.

  4. Indeed, way to go, No on B/C folk. You put your valuable resources towards the worthy cause of protecting one rich guy’s waterfront condo view from being blocked by another rich guy’s waterfront condo.

    But, uh … where’s all the affordable housing that this valiant effort of yours is supposed to save? Because I just don’t see any of it on that parking lot you were fighting over.

  5. Disgusting that the SF 1% headed by Peskin/Telegraph Hill Dwellers blocked a project that was approved & ready to go in 2012 & were able to put it to a vote.
    Once learning Peskin was involved voted YES on B&C.
    Now the City will lose $11 Million for low cost housing plus millions more in much needed property taxes.
    No view would have been blocked except for 1 jerk & his wife. The Embarcadero Centers as well as the very ugly Golden Gateway Projects are higher than the proposed condos. And unless you’re standing in your living room all day long, the view is irrelevant. Now we are stuck with a hideous green fence for the elite tennis club & the blighted parking lot which would have made a very nice good-sized park.
    The people who most would have benefited from this [low income/below market rate homes would have been built] got suckered again!
    At least the condo projects in District 9 have not been stopped. The area is finally improving.

    1. Honestly, I don’t understand what people thought they were accomplishing by killing this development, other than expressing some spite. Spite won’t help any lower-income folks stay in the city … but the extra money this project would’ve put in the BMR fund might have.

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