San Francisco waterfront development height fight challenged in court

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The people's right to decide the height of buildings along the San Francisco waterfront is being challenged in court.

The site at 8 Washington Street is where developers wanted to build a luxury high-rise condominium project on San Francisco's waterfront. It never happened, and many voters hope it never will after Proposition B passed in 2014.

"So, Proposition B says in the event that a developer wants to build higher than the existing law allows on the waterfront, the voters have to approve," Proposition B supporter Jon Golinger said.

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There are two developments in the works, and the buildings will be higher than what is mandated, which ranges from four stories to eight stories high depending on the location. One of those is at Pier 48 at Mission Rock, and the other is a residential project at Pier 70 in the Dogpatch neighborhood.

Almost immediately after Prop B passed, the state lands commission decided to challenge the measure.

The commission argues it should be the port commission, not voters who should decide what goes up and how high. "We believe that the Port Commission and other city agencies can do a good job of managing those resources and protecting them," Deputy Attorney General Joel Jacobs said.

For starters he says the port commission has "trained professionals" who are experienced in these kinds of projects. The public isn't.

Supporters of Proposition B don't buy that argument.

"It would demolish the open recreational space that we call the gateway," San Francisco resident Lee Radner said.

Louise Renne represents the Sierra Club, which opposes any major development.

"It would mean they could build then or more Empire State buildings all along the San Francisco waterfront and the public would have no say," Renne said.

At Wednesday's hearing the judge signaled the matter would likely go to trial.
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