8 Washington isn't getting much better


When the Board of Supervisors approved the environmental impact report for the most expensive condos in San Francisco history, several members of the board said they weren't entirely happy with the project. Supervisors Christina Olague and Eric Mar both complained about the height and bulk and Olague said she wanted a parking fee.

So now the project is back, and just won approval at the Budget and Finance Commitee -- with only a few minor changes. There's no adjustment to the height and bulk, although the parking has been cut from 255 spaces to 200 and a 50-cent parking surcharge has been added. Sup. Jane Kim wants to be sure that the pool built in the new facility will be open to low-income youth.

But the city's not getting a dime more than the $11 million in affordable housing money that developer Simon Snellgrove has already offered -- despite the fact that the available financial evidence suggests Snellgrove and his partners will make more than $250 million on the deal. Sup John Avalos made clear that the city's not getting enough out of this project.

So now it goes to the full board June 12 -- and if things go according to the normal San Francisco pattern, the developer will get what he wants and the city will get screwed.

See, when you give developers the opening, they take advantage of it. When you let them over the first hurdle with and 8-3 vote, they get pretty confident that they're going to win. So why would they compromise on more than few details? Why cut the height and bulk when you know you have the votes?

I respect what Eric Mar, Jane Kim and Christina Olague said about their votes on the EIR -- but imagine if it had been a 6-5 vote? Snellgrove might have gotten the message that this wouldn't be easy. He might be calling Olague and Mar and saying: How much less height? How much less bulk? How much more affordable housing? We might have wound up with a much better deal.

Every time -- every single time -- a developer presents what is supposed to be the last, best deal it's a scam. Every time the city has said No, the developer has come back and sweetened the pot. That would have happened here, too.

But no. I predict no height and bulk adjustments, no additional affordable housing money -- nothing more than what Budget and Finance already got. Which isn't enough.

Oh, and by the way: Everyone here already knows that I oppose this project because it's too much housing for rich people, which we don't need in this city, and puts the city's housing balance further out of whack. But if we're going to sell off the waterfront for all the wrong reasons, we should at least get the best deal we can.

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