It's been a week since City Attorney Dennis Herrera invalidated the seemingly successful referendum drive challenging the Bayview Hunters Point Redevelopment Plan, and everyone involved is still wondering what's next.
Can the biggest redevelopment plan in city history just move forward as if more than 33,000 city residents hadn't signed petitions asking to vote on it? Legally, that's where the situation now stands. But even Herrera told the Guardian that the legal question he answered is separate from the policy and political questions.
Should the Board of Supervisors hold a hearing to discuss the controversial issues raised by redevelopment and this referendum? Should it consider repealing the plan and allowing a ballot vote, as some supervisors want?
And if each referendum petition must include a thick stack of all related documents, as Herrera's opinion indicates, won't that make it prohibitively expensive for a community group to ever challenge such a complex piece of legislation? Have the citizens in effect lost the constitutional right to force a referendum on a redevelopment plan?
"I can't speak to what the practical effect will be. I can just tell you what the state of the law is," Herrera told us, noting that referendum case law clearly indicates that the petitioners should have carried the 62-page redevelopment plan and all supporting documents, not simply the ordinance that approved it.
A "TERRIBLE" DECISION
Four supervisors — Chris Daly, Tom Ammiano, Gerardo Sandoval, and Ross Mirkarimi — voted against the plan in May. All have expressed concern about Herrera's decision, but none have yet called for a hearing.
"Whether you agree or disagree with this opinion on the validity of the redevelopment referendum, it raises some grave concerns that this process — a democratic, grassroots process — was overturned," Mirkarimi told us. Daly called the decision "terrible."
Yet given that they need the support of at least two more supervisors to reconsider the plan, Mirkarimi conceded that the next step will probably have to come from a lawsuit by the petitioners, a move referendum coalition leaders Willie Ratcliff and Brian O'Flynn say they intend to pursue if political pressure fails.
"It's unclear what the next steps are to dislodge this from the legal shackles that knocked it down," Mirkarimi said. "Something doesn't smell right, and it's difficult to trace the odor completely without the courts getting involved."
But Ratcliff hasn't given up on forcing a political solution, which he is pushing through his coalition and the San Francisco Bay View newspaper he publishes. The paper last week ran a story on the decision under the hyperbolic headline "City Hall declares war on Bayview Hunters Point."
"We're talking to lawyers, but to us the last resort is going to court. We feel we can pull it off politically," Ratcliff told us. "What this did really was unite this community. If the city will pull this kind of thing, how are we going to have any faith in this plan? We're going to flex our power.... People are ready to fight now."
One gauge of Ratcliff's support in the community will come on the afternoon of Sept. 27, when he will lead a march and rally on the issue. The event is tied to the 40th anniversary of the so-called Hunters Point Uprising, when a teenager was shot by police and the resulting community backlash was violently quelled using National Guard tanks and police sharpshooters.
"With the 40th anniversary of the Hunters Point Uprising of Sept.
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