The case against 8 Washington - Page 2

Why an enclave for the rich is a bad move for San Francisco's waterfront

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Wow! Look at all the rich white people enjoying their gated community!

Golden Gateway, which was built in a redevelopment area as middle-class housing, is now renting out apartments as short-term tourist or corporate rentals. There are dozens of examples right now on Craigslist. City law bars the owners of rental housing from converting it to hotel rooms, but a loophole in that law makes what Foo's outfit is doing technically legal. But he's clearly violating the spirit of the city ordinance that seeks to protect rental housing from hotel conversions.

One of the main aesthetic complaints about the area — something Snellgrove's lobbyists have tried to use to support the project — is the ugly fence that now surrounds the Golden Gateway Tennis and Swim Club. But who do you suppose put that fence there?

Do we as a city want to be giving special zoning benefits to companies that try to circumvent tax and housing laws?

3. It's an environmental disaster. Snellgrove and his architects, Skidmore Owning and Merrill, are seeking LEED platinum certification for the project, saying that its energy-efficiency, water use, and green building materials will make it one of the most sustainable structures in San Francisco. It is, the project website notes, close to all types of public transit.

But LEED doesn't take into account what the building is used for (see "Is LEED really green," 7/5/11) — and in this case, the use makes a huge amount of difference.

People who buy multi-million-dollar condos don't tend to take Muni or BART when they go places. That's not conjecture, it's a proven fact. A 2008 study by the American Public Transportation Association notes, bluntly, that wealthier people are more likely to drive cars. When you move into the stratospheric regions of the ultra-rich, that's even more true. A 2011 report on the Charting Transport website notes: "The very rich tend to shun public transport."

The current zoning in the area allows for one parking space for every four residential units. Snellgrove is asking for one space per unit — in other words, he figures every single buyer will have a car.

Many of the people who buy these condos won't be working or even living most of the time in San Francisco. These are condos for world travelers, second and third homes for people who want to spend a few weeks a year in San Francisco. "They aren't going to be living here all year," Christina Olague, a former Planning Commission member who is now the District 5 supervisor, told us last July.

If five of the 165 residents of 8 Washington fly in a private or corporate jet from, say, New York to their SF pad once a month, the project will cause the use of jet fuel equivalent to what a normal family would use driving a car for 330 years, Paul noted.

"How many solar panels are needed compensate for burning 396,000 gallons of jet fuel a year?" he asked.

Then there's the construction issue. If the developer's projections are correct, as many as 20,000 dump truck runs will be trundling along the Embarcadero for several months, one every two minutes — and it could be happening right as the traffic nightmare called the America's Cup is hitting the waterfront.

It also goes against some 40 years of waterfront planning policy, all of which as focused on downzoning and creating open space. This would be the first upzoning of San Francisco waterfront property in decades.