Marsha Smolens

Editorial: The case against the 8 Washington tower


Editorial note: In 1971, at the height of the Alvin Duskin anti-highrise battle, the Guardian did a special first ever cost benefit study for high rise office development.

We found that highrises cost the city  more in services than they produce in revenue.  This meant that the commercial high rise boom could be fought on economic grounds, not just aesthietic and environmental grrounds, and the Chamber of Commerce/Big development gang could never adequately refute our findings.  In fact, they are now taken for  granted. So, as the 8 Washington battle is poised to open the floodgates even further for a forest of market rate residential  buildings, it's time for the city to do its own study to determine the economics of high end  residential buildings.  Does the cost of servicing luxury residential buildings exceed the taxes they pay? We and many others in the neighborhoods are certain that market rate housing doesn't pay for itself. But the facts are needed and so we urge the supervisors to direct the budget analyst or the city economist to do a similar analysis  for luxury condos.  Below is Executive Editor Tim Redmond's powerful argument against 8 Washington.

By Tim Redmond

In city planning terms, it's a fairly modest project: 134 condos, no buildings more than 12 stories tall, on a 27,000-square-foot site. It's projected to meet the highest environmental building standards and offers new open space and pedestrian walkways. It's near Muni, BART, and ferry lines. And the city will collect millions of dollars in new taxes from it.

But the 8 Washington project, which will come before the Planning Commission March 8, has become a flashpoint in city politics, one of the defining battles of Mayor Ed Lee's administration — and a symbol of how the city's housing policy has failed to keep pace with the needs of the local workforce. Read more »