Developers win, but just this round

Proposed project: The view from the street

So the developers won the first round of the 555 Washington battle -- and the role of the Recreation and Parks and City Planning Commissions said a lot about the state of local politics today. In both cases, you had the equivalent of a party-line vote: Every commissioner appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom voted in favor of the project, and every commissioner appointed by the Board of Supervisors voted against it.

And since the Rec-Park commission is entirely made up of mayoral appointees, that vote was unanimous.

The fact that there were dissenting views on the Planning Commission is a clear indication of why it's so important that the supes and the mayor both get to name members of that panel. And perhaps it's time to apply the same standard to Rec-Park.

A sign of how bad it was at planning: Toward the end of the discussion on the certification of the environmental impact report, after board-appointed commissioner Christina Olague complained about the threats to the redwood trees on the site, commissioner Bill Lee insisted on taking some expert testimony on the issue. And who did he call up? The landscape architect for the project sponsor. Guess what? She thought the trees would be just fine.

But this shady deal is not done yet. The Planning Commission was set to vote not only on the EIR but on the other various approvals the project needs, but Sue Hestor, a lawyer and project foe, pointed out that the developer had made some last-minute changes to the plans, and by law, the public needed more time to review the new material. And the City Attorney's Office, to its credit, agreed, and told the commission to continue that part of the vote for two weeks.

Meanwhile, it's pretty clear that opponents will appeal the EIR certification to the Board of Supervisors -- and the board will also have to approve the zoning changes and the sale of a public street that are necessary for the project to go forward.

And interesting twist at the commission meeting: Former Sup. Aaron Peskin pointed out that in 1992, a similar project came before the Recreation and Parks Commission -- similar except that it was about half as tall. And the commission rejected it because it would cast shadows on public parkland.

And yet, a much bigger project, which must more extensive shadows, sailed through Newsom's park panel -- with no discussion at all. "This thing was a greased as it gets," Peskin told me.



it was so sad to see that NOT ONE Rec Park Commissioner had ANYTHING to say - not one comment - about the abandonment of the ZERO percent "additional shadow" standard that had been carefully crafted, and adopted after years of public discussion. Former Rec Park commissioners and staff were real advocates for parks.

Where are the Commissioners who used to care about sunlit parks? NOT ONE WORD about abandoning standards to implement the vote of the people to protect sunlight on a park currently in shadow over 68% of the time.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2010 @ 12:33 pm


If the time ever comes when SF has a left-wing mayor and a right-wing Board of Supervisors, will you then reverse all your positions on who should appoint members to key commissions, and say that it should be the Mayor alone who appoints members?

Or would you stick to your view that it should be the Board of Supervisors even if (unlikely thought it might be) we had 11 Republicans on the Board and a rabidly socialist mayor?

If you really liked Redwood trees, you'd argue for the removing of Hetch-Hetchy Dam, which flooded several clumps of redwood trees. But admit it - this isn't about a few trees, is it? you just don't anyone to build anything anywhere. And certainly Sue Hestor doesn't - she's got hers and has make a lifetime career out of NIMBY'ism and making sure that others can't get theirs.

Posted by Tom Foolery on Mar. 19, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

I think the mayor and supes should split commissions no matter who's in power; it's more balanced. The mayor of SF traditionally has had too much power, and the district-elected supes are more accountable.

Posted by tim on Mar. 19, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

The problem is that the opposition, despite having such skilled advocates as Peskin, Shanahan and Hestor, haven't been able to come up with anything. Using the example that Redmond pointed to about the trees above - those are trees that were planted by humans in the 1970s. They are not part of the natural ecosystem. The developer is relying heavily on them to be a centerpiece of the new development. So I'm not sure why Redmond is questioning the integrity of the developer's spokesperson when she says that it is in their best interest to protect the trees.

Later in the day Christina Olague disparaged the $12 million dollars that the project would provide for affordable housing in San Francisco, saying that "it wouldn't do a whole lot". Of course, Redmond doesn't mention that because it doesn't suit his agenda to do so. This is not journalism.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2010 @ 4:21 am

So why should we care what he thinks; another spoilt child who has done more harm than good. He should move up to Farifield with his mate Daly where he will be rightly ignored. Leaving San Francisco to move forward as a modern city, not dwel in the past.

Posted by Chris Pratt on Mar. 20, 2010 @ 7:38 am

Why is it being expedited? Look at what and who is involved between when something like this is proposed and commissions hear it.

How can the overriding public benefit be re-dedicating a piece of publicly-accessible mini-park to the very same thing?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2010 @ 10:12 am

Having actually seen redwoods in the wild, the ones about the size of the redwoods in the park, are in the shade of the other redwoods all of the time in the wild.

...and I got a laugh out of the district supes being more accountable than the mayor. The progressives on the board are as openly owned as any tobacco, oil, developer, banking, gambling, etc... member of any legislative body in the nation, they are just owned by people liked by the Bay Guardian.

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 20, 2010 @ 2:15 pm

Can we guess who was on the Recreation and Parks Commission in 1992, majority of communists, I will bet.

Growth is part of human nature.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

In 1992, Frank Jordan (that noted communist) was mayor, and the Rec-Park Commission was hardly stacked with progressives. But its members followed the law, as approved by the voters.

There's a reason that planners zone neighborhood areas, not just individual sites. This area isn't supposed to have 400-foot towers. If we just decided that any developer who offered to create some construction jobs and pay property taxes could build anything he or she wanted, there'd be no need for planners or zoning laws, and San Francisco would be an urban nightmare.

I fail to see what this project offers that justifies spot zoning and all the other giveaways the developer needs. A 400-foot highrise on Haight and Stanyan, or 24th and Noe, or 18th and Connecticut, would also bring in construction jobs and property taxes, but there are good reasons why that's not allowed.


Posted by tim on Mar. 20, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

Why is it that the most intolerant comments on this site always include the worst spelling, syntax and grammar? If this is the progress that is being stood in the way of, I shudder to think what you people consider "development".

Posted by Ill-ish on Mar. 20, 2010 @ 11:15 pm

This is a blog where quick comments are added. There will be errors its in the nature of such communication and its progress so live with it you throwback.

Posted by Chris Pratt on Mar. 21, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

"A 400-foot highrise on Haight and Stanyan, or 24th and Noe, or 18th and Connecticut...."

That's a straw man. The proposed building is next door to the tallest building in the City, and is less than 1/2 the size of that existing building. The Haight, Noe, and Potrero Hill are filled with 2-3 story Victorians. It's not the same.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2010 @ 8:32 pm

Depending on the expert, the project involved, and who's paying the bills, all of these projects are based on the fluidity of opportunism.


We need denser housing for lower income people because dense housing is good and is closer to public transit, jobs, and a host of other things that are "good".


We don't need denser housing because it's for "rich people," its an eye sore and greedy developers make some money, they will burden public transit, etc... being against it sticks it to people who are "bad."

For a "progressive" just find out the economics of who gets what and then pick a side, then come up with an argument that is suitably set in studied outraged and call your pets at city hall.

And that whole park issue is strange, I go by there at least once a week, I see a few people in there at most, and it's closed much of the time.

Posted by glen matlock on Mar. 22, 2010 @ 10:11 am

Just build the damn thing. This is a CITY, folks. Those condos will bring in taxes and people living there will spend money.

Sorry, but the entire world is not run for the benefit of "the poor".

Posted by GuestScott on Mar. 22, 2010 @ 11:06 am

But, Tim, You are a communist, if I am wrong, just say that you are not a communist.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 23, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

If you want trees and green grass a city shouldn't be your choice of residence go live in the burbs where there IS trees green grass etc Let's use our heads here however Great read…..the information is poignant and dead on for today’s society

Posted by Guest on Mar. 28, 2010 @ 4:02 am