Developer hires crew to block signature gathering

Developer Simon Snellgrove and his hired crew seeks to block petition signing at Fort Mason

The developer of 8 Washington has taken an unusual if not unprecedented step to prevent a referendum on his waterfront condo project from succeeding: He's hired a crew of people to surround signature-gatherers and try to drive away anyone who might sign a petition to put the project before voters.

[UPDATE: Sup. Sean Elsbernd called to let me know that this isn't unprecedented -- he says opponents of his Muni reform initiative, including bus drivers, also tried to discourage people from signing petitions. ]

The pro-condo team, whose members were paid a reported $20 an hour, were visible July 14, 15 and 16 at Fort Mason Center, at the Safeway on Church and Market, at Dolores Park, at Duboce Park and elsewhere in the city, according to accounts from signature gatherers and from Guardian staffers.

The team, usually made up of several people, typically surrounds the signature gatherer, waves signs talking about jobs and parks, and loudly seeks to disuade passers-by from signing the referendum petition.

There is, of course, nothing illegal about two sides of a political debate expressing their First Amendment rights on the sidewalk. Some of the people gathering signatures for the referendum are getting paid, too.

But I can't think of another time when crews were hired to convince people not to sign a petition.

It's gotten serious enough the Simon Snellgrove, the developer behind 8 Washington, was out himself. He appeared in Dolores Park after the Mime Troupe performance, where Brad Paul, a foe of the project, saw him debate with a signature gatherer who was leaving the area. He was also at Fort Mason, where, according to one account, a person gathering signatures confronted him and complained that his workers were harassing her.

"That's their job," Snellgrove reportedly said.

I couldn't reach Snellgrove at his office. But Jon Golinger, the campaign manager for the stop 8 Washington effort, said the tactic was a sign of desperation. "They are worried about a public vote on this," Golinger told me.



Our home is not a luxury, it is a utilitarian necessity in which we live full time.

I'm much more comfortable with the THD than I am with the HAC.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 9:11 am

I forgot that you know who will live here full time and who will not. I guess it comes with being able to decide who is a real San Franciscan and who is not.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 9:44 am

Yes, if voting patterns at Golden Gateway are any indication, they are pieds a terre provided by Redevelopment to the uber riches. Redevelopment should not have built those, and we should not throw good money after bad by entitling, spot upzoning and ultimately subsidizing this luxury crap.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 10:05 am

complex and while naturally I can't dispute claims that there is some of what you describe going on there -- in fact I expected my experience there to validate that -- I can vouch for the fact that there are a surprising number of real folks who live there.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 10:31 am

"real" folks? Real Republican folks maybe. The 1% of the 1%. These kind of people are not what most would consider real San Franciscans.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 11:39 am

Check out the election returns for the precinct to the north of Sue Bierman Park: very low turnout, those who do vote vote overwhelmingly conservative.

Perhaps nonvoters and immigrants live there? I think we should be housing the homeless who've been here for some time instead of well heeled immigrants.

But that is just me and my racist xenophobia.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 11:53 am

people weren't exactly lining up to sign the petiton in front of the Safeway on Market

Posted by DanO on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 8:40 am
Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

I was interested in this myself. Because Tim always teaches us to look at where the money comes from, like when the dentists wanted to open up Coit Tower to wild parties.

Most likely it is the real estate behemoth Equity Office Properties which owns the Ferry Building and the Embarcadero Center. Someone said that they own the threatened surface parking lot. They are in turn are owned by the nefarious and aptly named Blackstone Group. They had 'Stop the Wall' posters in their lobby.

But it is most likely under $100K so there are other possibilities.

I'm sure that Tim will tell us about the funding, since he always does when an effort is mounted against the Progressives.

Posted by Troll on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

Or you could get off your computer and go dig up some information to support your argument, troll.
Of course this will never happen, because complaining on the internet is how you get your ever diminishing jollies.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

I can't really say if I'm for it or against the issue itself.

But I can definitely make a broad decision based on the players and their tactics.

Posted by Zingbat McGillicutty on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

I was just approached by a "no wall" sig gatherer in my neighborhood.
Older white guy with some kind of white minicar convertible plastered with "no wall" posters.
He asked me if I wanted to "prevent a 65% height increase along the entire waterfront"

Don't you love our political process?

Posted by Bob on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

What has one to do with the other? You are thinking in terms of black & white.

So he drives a minicar; and he's against the proposed height of the building. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

Posted by Dahlia on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 4:52 pm

Um, Dahlia, I think his point was that the petitioner was using false information to get signatures. There is no 65% height increase across the entire waterfront.

I've encountered similar efforts to mislead by the petitioners.

Posted by Troll on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

What a signature gatherer said to me, was that the builders had made an exception for an excess of 36 feet.

I signed the ballot measure; even though I hate ballot measures. Now, I'm thinking I shouldn't have signed it. I also inquired about getting a job as a signature gatherer, but apparently, they are not hiring any more people; so many, not sure exactly how many, were actually volunteers.

Posted by Dahlia on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

Waterfront. That you neglected to pick that up says something.
He was lying to get people to sign the petition.

Posted by Bob on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

Many are missing the point here: the 8 Washington development plan is about 36 feet above what the current building height is. It would set a precedent for other developers.

Harassing would-be signatures is not protected by the First Amendment. It's one thing to talk, it's another, to try and physically block someone, and prevent them from signing, if that is what they want to do.

Posted by Dahlia on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

>"it's another, to try and physically block someone, and prevent them from signing"

Could you please tell us how you know that happened? The picture that Steven provided with this post was a bunch of harmless looking people passing out fliers. Can you give us some details of the 'physically blocking' and preventing from signing incidents?

Where did it happen? Any other details?

Posted by Troll on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

This happened in front of Rainbow. I did not see it happen. Police were called, but the police didn't do anything.

Posted by Dahlia on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

I (proudly) gathered signatures for the Muni reform measure. I was active from the beginning to the end. And far from being hassled, the experience was overwhelmingly un-confrontational.

Voters loved it, grabbed the petition out of my hand, signed it, and said Go With God. There was the ONE instance where the muni driver when nutso on that college kid, (who, in my view, egged the driver on) but nothing like the coordinated effort we're reading about with these pro-8 Washington goons.

Posted by Chris G on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

>"nothing like the coordinated effort we're reading about with these pro-8 Washington goons."

And you're reading about it, where?

Are you sure that this is something that actually happened or is it just make believe time again?

Posted by Troll on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

I didn't read about it, I saw it. July 4th, Dolores Park. It was confrontational and goonish, in my view. YMMV.

And it's not like I'm a proglodyte (!). I could go either way on 8 Wash.

Posted by Chris G on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

On the one hand, you're against firms moving to SF or firms becoming successful (e.g., Facebook) because of concerns that the highly compensated employees will drive up rents.

On the other hand, you are apparently against the construction of the very type of condos in which those highly compensated people would choose to live.

Seems to me, the construction of condos kills a few birds with one stone: it provides jobs to the working class, it ameliorates the impact of housing demand from a robust tech sector and it may actually increase the number of people in the city who will spend money at coffee shops, restaurants, theaters, etc., which will, in turn, create more jobs for the working class.

So what's the problem?

Oh, and by the way, those who solicit petitions are frequently paid to do so. Why is it a problem that people are paid to solicit an alternative point of view?

Posted by Oy on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

but it's not OK to pay people to put out the contrary view?

Sounds a little fascist to me.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 8:24 pm

The "contrary view" denies a vote by the electorate, in a rare instance of pure direct democracy.

So if you had to pin the authoritarian label on one camp or the other...

Posted by hotensio on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 10:13 am

Should we vote on every new building? On every street change? At some point, you have to say "stop" and we can't do city planning if the voters can just do this, that and everything else.

We hire people to assess these projects and they've done their job. It's reasonable to hold the view that there's been enough navel-gazing on this topic. It's just a building, and one that will bring millions to the city.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

The only reason to fear people voting on everything is that one fears that people will not agree with what one wants.

It is clear that representative government is not up to the task. Direct democracy is perhaps one way that we might make public policy correspond to public opinion.

Isn't that how it is supposed to be in a democracy?

Posted by marcos on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

marcos, direct democracy gave us horrors like Prop 13, which along with other aspects have destroyed much of California. We need less direct democracy, not more.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

I dont get it.

The current Tennis Club is a private club. How does this benefit anyone except the people you can pay to be a part of it?

The 136' portion of the proposed building is right across the street from a bulding that is twice as high.

The proposal is to build the building, rebuild the Golden Gateways club (only minus the tennis courts) and to build two public parks. What is bad about this?

The ferry building already blocks views to the bay, and is right across the street. I must be missing something.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

I think you guys may want to see this:

Coming to a San Francisco ballot near you.

Posted by Braxton Wilshire-Haverton Jr. on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

Thursday, July 19, 2012






More than 400 volunteers and campaign workers gathered sufficient signatures in the last 29 days to qualify referendum despite developer Simon Snellgrove paying teams of “blockers” to follow volunteers and attempt to interfere
with petition signing


This afternoon on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, a coalition of neighborhood leaders, seniors, tenants, and environmentalists will announce they are turning in sufficient petition signatures to qualify a voter referendum on a recently-approved city ordinance that would dramatically increase building height limits on the northeast SF waterfront for the 8 Washington Luxury High Rise Condo Project.  Over the last 29 days, more than
400 volunteers and campaign workers fanned out across San Francisco gathering petition signatures at cafes, grocery stores, farmers’ markets and from friends, family, and neighbors. 
In a recent opinion editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle, former SF Mayor Art Agnos called the proposed spot-zoning increase of existing height limits on the northern waterfront by more than 50 feet for the 8 Washington Project “a proposal to set aside one section of the waterfront for exclusive housing for the wealthiest and, in the process, create a 136-foot high wall on the Embarcadero’s edge – 80 feet higher than the original double deck freeway.”
After submission of the petition signatures this afternoon, the SF Department of Elections will have up to 30 days to count the petitions and verify that more than 19,405 of the signatures are from validly registered San Francisco voters.  Unlike a standard ballot initiative, a “referendum”
requires twice as many petition signatures to be collected within a window of just 30 days.  If certified for the ballot, this would be the first “referendum” on an ordinance adopted by the Board of Supervisors and signed
by the Mayor to qualify for the SF ballot in 20 years. 


Neighborhood leaders, seniors, tenants, and environmentalists supporting the No Wall on the Waterfront/8 Washington Project Referendum Petition


Thursday, July 19, 2012
4:00 p.m.

Front Steps of San Francisco City Hall
1 Carlton B. Goodlett Place (Polk Street Steps)

San Francisco, CA

Posted by marcos on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 9:29 am

well the Manhatenization of SF prediction came true and the quality of life continues to decline as the population, legal and illegal, increases along with the cars, lines congestion, crime and on and on. Got more and more city workers and less and less city services.
There are no longer any single family homes in SF, all have been turned into apartment buildings. some with as many as 8 units with 10+ tenants' cars parked on the street so a hirise is par for the course.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 21, 2012 @ 1:59 pm