Battle heats up over SF waterfront development project


You've probably seen the dueling commercials over the waterfront project known as "8 Washington."

Some ads feature San Francisco Mayor Ed Le saying, "Open up the waterfront. Vote yes on B."

Or former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos saying, "Let's not build a new wall on the waterfront. Please vote no."

The plan would turn a few blocks, now occupied by a private tennis and swimming club and a public parking lot, into two high-rises with 134 multimillion dollar condos.

The opponents include Agnos, who was mayor when the decision was made in 1990 to tear down the earthquake-damaged Embarcadero freeway that has opened up the waterfront.

"The old freeway was 70 feet. This is going to be 136 feet, almost double the size," said Agnos.

Agnos and other critics call it a wall on the waterfront. Supporters of 8 Washington, including Supervisor Scott Wiener, considers that hyperbole.

"That's completely inaccurate. This is right next to the Embarcadero Center which is four times the height of this proposed project," said Wiener.

As part of the deal, the developer would pay the city $11 million for off-site affordable housing.

"We have some people saying, 'No, no. We hate millionaires so much we've got to turn down these 50-55 affordable homes.' Any other city in the United States would look at that, and say, 'That's an amazing deal,'" said Tim Colen from the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition.

But detractors see it as anything but. The Sierra Club worries 8 Washington would open the door to massive development.

"Do we want to see luxury condos along the waterfront like they have in Miami where really the access to the views of the bay are limited to those who can pay premium dollar?" said Michelle Myers from the Sierra Club.

Still, supporters say the project will revitalize a stretch of the waterfront with open space.

"It will open up the area to more pedestrian use, retail and park uses," said Wiener.

Critics call that an exaggeration.

"The two-thirds of the so-called open space comes from roof tops, comes from verandas, comes from decks and narrow openings between buildings," said Agnos.

This controversy is covered by two propositions -- B and C. If you support 8 Washington, you vote yes on both. If you don't, you vote no on both.

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