Why I'm voting No on props B/C

Fri Oct 25, 2013 2:15:12 am
by Jeff Whittington.

I can appreciate that a lot of time and effort went into the planning for the 8 Washington condominium project, and that at the time it was seen as a necessary revenue vehicle for a city that was so broke it had to start charging for the Arboretum. But that was years ago, and as will.i.am would say, It's a New Day, so google up the boom. These measures should be decided based on what's best for the city.

The height issue is what started all this, and it should not be ignored. In question is less the height of this particular project, which will slope gracefully down to street level from a bunch of high rises, than the principle that once you've broken the height rule for one development, it's been broken, and likely will be for a lot of others as well.

I might have voted No simply based on the amount of money poured into the ridiculously deceptive Yes campaign, or “San Franciscans for Parks, Jobs, and Housing.” That you, Karl? The ads don't even mention the building of condominiums; instead they talk about parks and shops, framing the project as the sole alternative to the ugly parking lot and tennis courts that currently adorn the site. Guess what, the owners of those tennis courts and parking lot are all set to benefit handsomely from the project; no doubt they have kept them as much of an eyesore as possible for as long as possible, until the day the city would finally give them a nice fat bribe to go away. In any case, elections should not be won or lost based on money, and any time that many dollars go into a campaign, you know it can't be good.

Some seem to feel the question is “what kind of housing” to build on the site. Let's put that one to bed right now; nobody is going to throw up a middle class neighborhood on a prime Embarcadero parcel. Nor would I want to see a Marriott (crew cut Marriott?) or some such go up here. This is one of the last available spaces on the downtown waterfront, and one of the most prominent, and it sure seems that it ought to be used for something that will belong to and benefit all San Franciscans. Once you privatize it, and especially once they've built a damned palace on it, you ain't getting it back.

So what should be built? A bicycle hub has been mentioned, but folks who don't bicycle may not be too excited (incidentally, I'm not the least bit opposed to the underground garage element of the project. Cars aren't going away, they'll just turn electric.). So what then? I'm not helped a lot here by the No campaign, which seems to be in a competition to out-stupid the men from Yes. If they really wanted to win this, they'd dazzle us with their glittering vision for 8 Wash; instead we get a bunch of manure about sewage lines and Art Agnos talking about Miami Beach. Voters are left to think it's either the project before us, or ugly tennis courts forever.

Housing is where your health and office workers, the people who mend your streets and tend your shops, live. 8 Washington is not housing, it's more fodder for real estate speculation - the most expensive condominiums ever built in San Francisco. Who knows if anyone will even live there? David Byrne says he can see three large condo complexes from his Chelsea home that never seem to have anyone in them - there are only so many rich people, and they can only live so many places at a time. Every time I cross the bay bridge I gaze up at the monoliths towering overhead (with catchy names like “Above It All”), and wonder how many of the aliens are comfortably ensconced in their alcoves chowing down on GrubHub Vindaloo and Salty Egg Gai Choy Tofu Soup, how many will be arriving shortly on the next ship, and how many fully intend to live to a ripe old age on Xergon, basking in the self-satisfaction of having done so much better with their cash than the neighbors who invested heavily in Tianducheng.

But what about the thirty or forty nonrich families the developers will allow to live in town in exchange for getting permission to build their palace? I can't believe people are actually serious about this; when are we going to see Alan Funt? If we have to build a hundred and fifty rich people units for every forty nonrich families allowed to live here, we might as well pack up the U-Haul right now and head for our new homes in Red Bluff, abandoning Pebble Beach on the Bay entirely to its proud new absentee owners. It's every bit as inspired a concept as the “Americans can have a living wage if they'll just get off their asses and earn three PhDs” stuff we constantly hear from people who should know better. You want affordable housing? Slap a tax on income over a hundred grand and use the proceeds to build affordable housing. Use eminent domain; ban the private ownership of land. Careful, Daryl, the neofeudalists are liable to call you libruhl, and then you'd turn into a fine little pool of ooze.

We are living in the modern era of enclosure. All around us, the businesses and people who have devoted their lives to this city and made it such a fantastic place to live are being squeezed out in the name of unadulterated greed. The Red Devil recently announced it will soon close its doors to make way for yet another boring high end specialty cocktail lounge; 9th and Irving has become a forest of Space Available signs where landlords just couldn't wait until new tenants were found before pushing the old ones out, including some of the most fun stores in the city. A crappy, not particularly transportation accessible one-bedroom in a Sunset tenement now rents for twenty-six hundred dollars a month, while the powers that be are falling all over themselves to get rid of rent control. What we need is new thinking, not another palace to profit real estate moguls. Or CalPers either for that matter.

Tags: 8 Washington, 2013 Prop B, 2013 Prop C


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