The 8 Washington disaster goes to Planning

condos for the 1 percent

The urban planning disaster that is 8 Washington goes before the San Francisco City Planning Commission March 8 amid a long list of questions -- including Mayor Lee's position on the project and how it could screw up the America's Cup.

Developer Simon Snellgrove wants to build the most expensive condos in San Francisco history on the waterfront, 145 units that will be far out of reach to anyone who makes less than half a million dollars a year. And many of the units will require income far higher than that. It's not just housing for the 1 percent; it's housing for the top half of the 1 percent.

There's no need for this kind of housing in SF; the very rich have no problem finding places to live. And the spot zoning violates every standard of good waterfront planning practice.

The project will benefit the Port of San Francisco, which stands to take a cut of the money since some of the project is on Port land. But more than half of the land is owned by Golden Gateway and is a former redevelopment area, so the supervisors and the Port are going to have to fight over who gets the property tax increments and how that's all financed.

More interesting, 8 Washington will be a boon to Golden Gateway, which as the landowner is a partner in the deal. And Golden Gateway is one of those big properties that are paying far too little in city taxes. When the complex changed hands several years ago, the owners used a stock-swap deal to transfer it, avoiding the Prop. 13 reassessment that could have substantially raised its taxes. So the city's losing millions of dollars -- and now Timothy Foo, who is the principal owner of Golden Gateway, will be getting a nice favor from the city he's been screwing.

Oh, and by the way -- a lot of Golden Gateway units are being advertised as short-term (that is, hotel) rentals -- something that violates at least the spirit of city law. This is an outfit that deserves special zoning treatement from San Francisco?

Then there's the fact that this could be a serious problem for the big America's Cup party. Project critic Brad Paul has been analyzing the impacts of the development, and noticed some new language in the comments and responses to the Environmental Impact Report suggesting that excavation could lead to something like 200 dump-truck trips a day along the Embarcadero -- roughly one trip every two minutes. In an email to Paul, Paul Matltzer in the Planning Department confirmed that the likely construction process could, indeed, involve that many dump trucks, rumbling along the Embarcadero during the peak construction period, which will also be the peak period for America's Cup tourism.

Dump trucks, Paul (who used to drive one) notes, start slowly and brake slowly. The Embarcadero is already crowded -- and will be far more crowded during the Cup races, so much so that city officials are thinking of closing traffic lanes to all but bicyles and transit. How, exactly, will that work out with 200 trucks a day fighting for room?

I've called and emailed the America's Cup people, but they haven't gotten back to me. I'll keep you posted.

Lee's office hasn't gotten back to me, either, but I'm hearing that the mayor is telling people he hasn't made up his mind -- on a project that's a week away from the Planning Commission and that one of his close allies, Rose Pak, is strongly promoting.



"The people who will buy condos at 8 Washington aren't looking for a condo or a TIC in the Mission, and will never be competing for that space. This type of property will be marketed to the very rich who will use the units as second or third homes, as places to live when they visit this city."

Tim, I'm willing to accept for the sake of argument that your infinite wisdom includes the plans of the future purchasers of these units that haven't been built yet, and that City policy should be determined based upon your clairvoyancy.

So there are people out there who are going to take money out of their hedge fund accounts and gold futures and buy a place in San Francisco because of this project. Which is a bad thing apparently. Otherwise they would not choose to invest in San Francisco. And a unit that provides solid real estate tax revenue while placing almost no burden on services is a bad thing. And that a surface parking lot and tennis fortress is preferable.

Just as long as we keep those rich folks away.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

to entice wealthy people because they know it is good for local jobs, taxes and the economy. You've only got to look at a place like Detroit to see what happens the other way.

But only in SF, of course, where it is politically incorrect to be successful, could someone like Tim get away with wanting to shut out the wealthy and, instead, build a city only for the poor, the criminal, the failures and the homeless.

Tim, why not move to Detroit? Your dream town already exists - you just didn't realise it.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

I will say, at least 1/3 will be for the housing you describe. I would venture there are plenty of SF folk, or suburban folk who would in other parts of SF for a tony waterfront home home however. A friend sold a pac heights home for a loft in SOMA- and it was a big home, great for a family, not so great for active professional retirees.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 2:49 pm

for the opportunity to live at the waterfront

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 2:51 pm

would mean more life to downtown in the evenings and week-ends.

Plus millions extra to help close the deficit and preserve vital city services.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

No, no, no -- the biggest driver of housing costs is infinite (or, okay, that's a big word) near-infinite demand that is increasing right now with the growth in high-paid jobs. If we built 50,000 new market-rate housing units in the next five years, it wouldn't bring down prices for renters and the middle class a whit.


Posted by tim on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

When interest rates rise, and housing inflation is tamped, housing prices will fall.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 1:04 pm

SF housing prices.

In the late 2000's, rates were falling and so were SF housing prices.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

Rates were much higher in 1997- around 7%

Much lower in 2009.

Relationship is murky at best and makes no allowance for the one third of buyers who pay cash

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

1/3 of the homes without debt does not mean that those homes were purchased with cash.

There was also a humming economy in 1997, which was why, back in saner times, interest rates were raised after having been kept low. That economic activity generated the economy wide demand by throwing more money into the system which drove prices up. Then the Wall Street began its deregulation push and investment was freed up for the internet bubble.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

and while interest rates etc move around, the fundamnetal determinant of prices is the balance of supply and demand. You won't find a SF politician saying that we don't need to build more housing, nor that SF can do anything about interest rates. So we have to focus on what we can do and, if a private concern is willing to take the risk and pay for new housing, then we should take it, regardless of who the target buyers are.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

Real Estate is the only aspect of the Wall Street economy, Finance, Insurance and Real Estate that cannot be outsourced. Real Estate exerts enormous pressures in the electoral realm such that any candidate who opposes development is attacked and any office holder who does not buy into the real estate growth paradigm is threatened with recall.

San Francisco needs to be doing what is right for San Franciscans, not what developers force the City to do as they seek economic rent.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

Of course Marcos is uniquely in a position to comment on what is right for San Franciscans, as he is the official mouthpiece for the entire city.

Posted by Grig on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 9:28 am

his ass and stand for office. But of course he won't - he'd rather carp from the sidelines.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 10:11 am

If I was not a threat then you would not attack me. You are afraid, very afraid, of what will happen once citizens organize against the corrupt development deals that the nonprofits have roped progressives into along with the 1%. Tea party economics is the Achilles heel of pax San Franciscana.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 10:24 am

And I'm sure you'll understand why I am not going to tell you why.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

realistically, only the wealthy and the successful can live?

Have you been to Aspen, La Jolla, Jackson Hole, Monaco, Aruba, San Moritz, Liechenstein, Andorra etc? Any "affordable" housing there?

Likewise, have you been to Detroit, the Bronx, South Central LA, Gary, Indiana and so on? any million dollar condo's there?

See the pattern here? Some places are desirable and expensive. Other places are poor and nasty. Always was and always will be.

So which category do you want SF to be in?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

Some from column A, some from column B.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

I think he wants to be the city's Director of Social Engineering.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

I could tolerate housing for the rich (tho I will freely admit I think there are too many rich people in this city already) if it was part of a sane housing policy that made sure the housing market reflected local needs. It doesn't.

I'll also admit that I think housing is a human right and should be regulated tightly, like a public utility, and that it's too important in a city like SF to let the "free market" decide.

Posted by tim on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

Too important in what sense? In a "free" market, there would be lots more construction.

Why do you have to "tolerate" what other people may have? Why do you get to decide that there are too many of any type of person in SF?

Posted by Grig on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

There must be the exact proportions of different groups that Tim thinks is appropriate. Despite the fact that SF is what it is today precisely because nobody ever tried to manage it in a top-down way, but rather just let it happen.

Of course, he's also worried about the gradual demographic changes that are making SF more moderate, which means that in another decade or two, there'll be no SFBG and Tim will be out of work.

Still, at least he'll be able to sell his home to somebody more successful. And move to somewhere where the politics suits him better. Like Bulgaria.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

Guest: "SF is what it is today precisely because nobody ever tried to manage it in a top-down way, but rather just let it happen."

Actually, what's you're describing is Mexico City in the '60s or some other Third World city that forces the poor into shanty towns and lets the rich do what they please. San Francisco is the way it is precisely because we have zoning laws, building standards, rent control, and many, many other top-down controls. And the only reason that the working class can still live here is because Tim, Marc, and many other progressive-minded citizens love this city and have been fighting developers and people like you for decades.

Posted by steven on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 8:59 pm

divine right to live in SF? Do I have a right to live in Hawaii if I can't afford it? Paris? Monaco?

The history of modern SF goes back at least 150 years and we've only had "activists" since the 1970's. Claiming that SF was built by activists is a real stretch.

While if your "vision" of the city is threatened by 140 rich people, then how solid and credible can it really be? I'm sure more homeless people than that arrive every year, so your precious "balance" and "diversity" will be maintained.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 7:38 am

evicted you from Hawaii, Paris, or Monaco either, sweetie. It's not about choosing to live somewhere (and I heartily wish you WOULD move to those places!). It's about being pushed out of your home. Why should a "special class" of people with money who've never contributed to the city before deserve to live here, either?  

Posted by marke on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 8:07 am

anyone to lose their home?

You're more likely to lose your home if this doesn't get built, and developers decide to Ellis a few rental buildings instead.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 10:13 am

Waterfront luxury condos do not compete with Edwardians and Victorians in neighborhoods where TIC conversions and Ellis Act evictions have been prevalent, period.

There is no connection between building luxury condos and relieving pressure on affordability in the normal neighborhoods where working San Franciscans live.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 10:27 am

where exactly in San Francisco are the non normal neighborhoods where non working (non) san franciscans live?

Posted by Grig on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 11:59 am

much more shades of gray. Million dollar condo's in Nob Hill are a couple of blocks from skid row SRO's in the TL. Fancy lofts in SOMA and the Mish abut rundown Edwardian rental buildings. It's block by block which is why these new units will really help. They'll easy off demand in SOMA which will ease off demand in Potrero which will ease off demand in the Mission.

Now, personally, I don't really care. I own 2 units and Redmond/Marco-style NIMBYism is good for my wallet. But that aside, this build makes sense for SF on so many levels.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

And that building this luxury block will NOT lead to any evictions?

But housing is a continuum, and there is a trickle down effect as people who can't afford one area start looking at neighboring, cheaper areas.

Ask any realtor.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 12:37 pm

Oh, I can see why you wouldn't want that, Tim.

Let's have a city full of miserable failures instead. Much better.

SF isn't a theme park that should be frozen in time. If it's a magnet for the successful, then let's play to out strength, and not engage in some ill-adivsed race to the bottom where we compete with Detroit for the title of most miserablle city in the US.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

Trotting out all of the chestnuts.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 10:25 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 7:33 am

It seems that the developers attack monkeys are hard at work on the comments section. Only supporters of this project are paid hacks...

Posted by Guest Public Trust on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 10:10 pm

And almost nobody is paid to say that.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 7:34 am

Yet you've been losing elections - and power - at an exponential rate over the past 10 years.

Your losses are always the result of some evil, corrupt force at work, and never the result of the fact that your ideas suck.

Anyways, it's another issue the SFBG will lose on, so not too much sense is whining about it. And there is currently 50 single family homes and over 90 condos/TICs listed being offered in SF for $399K or under. There primarily in Southern neighborhoods - move right in.

Posted by Longtime Lurker on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 11:22 am

Single family homes all over the southern part of town for 250,000 - 300,000.
Condos and TIC's are all over the city at mixed price points. This pogrom on 8 Washington is just masking the complete resetting of SF real estate due to the tech/bio expansion. We need first time home buyers assistance for working class families and affordable rental and condo development.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 9:11 am

Most of Oakland, for a start, which is a quicker commute to downtown SF than much of SF itself.

And any number of places further out.

Nobody is going to build rental housing in SF while we have rent control, unless they are condo's which are exempt by State law.

If you want affordable housing, then abolish rent control and most of the zoning rules. Then you'll see a huge amount of affordable new homes.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 10:16 am

job - perhaps these residents need a kitchen maid, cook or a driver or even a lady's maid? Some of them look like they will require a large staff to be serviceable and that is where the additional employment comes in. There are many San Franciscans qualified to serve below stairs as household staff - so establishing such large, palatial residences means people like us can have jobs in them.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 11:03 am

spending money in the local economy, which means many jobs in service.

On top of all the construction jobs of course. This is exactly why cities compete with each other to attract high net worth upper echelon buyers.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 12:40 pm

I'd make it easier for working people to buy and stay with downpayment assistance and work on the schools, roads and parks and stop thinking for one more minute about a little infill housing on the waterfront that only improves that 2 block area at the foot of a bunch of ugly mid century mid rises. Jeeze

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

enough affordable housing then we should not build any housing for the wealthy, even though that's at no cost to the city and, indeed, the city gains both tax revenues and set-aside low-cost units as a direct result.

So there you have it. Tim and his ilk hate the rich so much that they'd prefer to build LESS affordable housing just to spite them.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 02, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

At $5,000 a month, pj Johnston gets paid aprox $849.23 per post...

Posted by Guest Public Trust on Mar. 04, 2012 @ 9:36 am

I can't believe the crap you people are writing here. the article was good and informative. Clearly no one writing here understands economics. And no one who has posted a comment knows a damn thing about the history of the port and the importance of setting a bad precedence -- approving spot zoning as a favor to a corrupt political insider. Sounds like a few of you like the Russian version of capitalism. Well -- as they say "if you don't like it here - MOVE".

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2012 @ 11:09 am

It's all class warfare and identity politics here - dont let the rich build anything and don't build anything for the rich.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2012 @ 11:38 am

The concept of "NIMBY" is merely an extension of a neighborhood raising consistent concerns for the betterment of their living environment. The same arguments could be applied in many neighborhoods -- therefore the NIMBY movement is a good one because -- though unconnected -- their principles are the same:

1. No illegal development. Follow the planning code and residential design guidelines.

2. No "favors" or spot-zoning for projects.

3. No "bait and switch" promises for "affordable housing" from developers.

4. Abide by the height and density that the neighbors are entitled to. Why is it that the view/open space rules never apply to new development even though they impinge on the rights of the EXISTING homeowners?

I could go on. Long live NIMBY.

Posted by Roland Salvato on Mar. 05, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

NIMBY's are essentially fairly privileged people who, having gor their share of the pie, don't want anyone else to have theirs. That's why most if not all of the "zoning activists" own houses, condo's or apartment buildings in SF and so have a vested interest in seeing supply constrained - it's good for their pocketbook.

Their other feature is that they never want anything to change, which is why the ones I know are all over age 50. Their productive and ambitious years are past them and all they want now is for nobody else to progress. they treat SF like some sort of time-warped theme park which can never evolve. When the reality of this city is that it is always moving forward - tech now replaces the gold rush, and we need to house the successful. Cue the politics of envy.

NIMBY is a pejorative acronym for a very good reason. they are near-sighted losers who can't stand anyone else to get their way, can't stand progress and can't deal with change.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2012 @ 12:29 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2012 @ 1:02 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2012 @ 1:57 pm