Tale of two parties: Was the 8 Washington defeat a referendum on City Hall?

Sups. David Campos (at mic) and David Chiu address the No on Props. B&C party.
Steven T. Jones

From tonight’s victory party for opponents of the 8 Washington waterfront luxury condo project, the overwhelming defeat of developer-backed Propositions B&C seemed to go beyond just this project. It sounded and felt like a blow against Mayor Ed Lee’s economic policies, the gentrification of the city, and the dominion that developers and power brokers have at City Hall. 

“What started as a referendum on height limits on the waterfront has become a referendum on the mayor and City Hall,” former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin told the large and buoyant crowd, a message repeated again and again tonight.

Former Mayor Art Agnos also cast the victory over 8 Washington as the people standing up against narrow economic and political interests that want to dictate what gets built on public land on the waterfront, driven by larger concerns about who controls San Francisco and who gets to live here.

“This is not the end, this is the beginning and it feels like a movement,” Agnos told the crowd. “We’ll have to tell the mayor that his legacy,” a term Lee has used to describe the Warriors Arena he wants to build on Piers 30-32,” is not going to be on our waterfront.”

Campaign Manager Jon Golinger also described the victory in terms of a political awakening and turning point: “We are San Francisco and you just heard us roar!”

Campaign consultant Jim Stearns told the Guardian that he thought the measures would be defeated, but everyone was surprised by the wide margin – the initiative B lost by 25 points, the referendum C was 33 points down – which he attributed to the “perfect storm” of opposition.

Stearns cited three factors that triggered the overwhelming defeat: recent populist outrage over the city’s affordability crisis, concerns about waterfront height crossing ideological lines, and “a tone deaf City Hall that didn’t want to hear there were any problems with the project.”.

Among the key project opponents who have sometimes stood in opposition to the city's progressives was former City Attorney Louise Renne, who blasted City Hall and called the Planning Department “utterly disgraceful,” telling the crowd, “Get your rest, more to come, San Francisco.”

Both progressive and political moderates often share a distrust of the close connections between powerful developers and the Mayor’s Office, and that seemed to play out in this campaign and at the polls.

“San Francisco, this victory is for you. And to all those developers out there: Do not mess with our waterfront. We’re not going to stand for it,” Renne said.

Two supervisors who opposed 8 Washington – David Chiu and Davis Campos – also spoke at the event, with the latter starting to define their political differences as they each run for the Assembly seat being vacated after next year by Tom Ammiano.

“Tonight, San Francisco said we stand for affordable housing and not luxury condos,” said Chiu, who played a pivotal role in appointing Lee as mayor and ending the progressive dominance on the Board of Supervisors.

Campos followed by noting, “I’ve been criticized for saying we’re seeing a tale of two San Franciscos, but that’s what we have here,” referencing a theme that echoes (as Chiu’s campaign operatives have critically noted) that of progressive Bill de Blasio, who also won a resounding victory tonight in the New York City mayor’s race.

“We have a City Hall that, quite frankly, doesn’t get it,” Campos continued, referencing the redevelopment of Parkmerced’s rent control housing and today’s board vote to close city parks at night, both of which Chiu was the swing vote in approving. “When City Hall doesn’t get it right, the people of San Francisco step in.”

Peskin also stoked the class warfare fires by saying, “Your voices are being heard loud and clear in Simon Snellgrove's penthouse,” referencing the 8 Washington developer who spent nearly $2 million on this unsuccessful campaign. And Peskin said he had a message directly for Mayor Lee: “Wake up, San Francisco is talking!”

Judge Quentin Kopp, who fought downtown’s aggressive push for more high-rise development as a Westside supervisor back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, called tonight’s victory “history repeating itself,” mentioning the work that the Bay Guardian did in opposition to “the Manhattanization of San Francisco.”

Kopp also took a swipe at Mayor Lee, the protégé of Kopp’s old nemesis, former Mayor Willie Brown, when he said, “This is the beginning of the end of five more years of Willie Brown’s administration.”

Indeed, the current political moment is beginning to feel a little like 1999, when Brown won a narrow re-election victory against the upstart write-in campaign of progressive hero Tom Ammiano and a movement stirred by the evictions and gentrification of the last dot-com bubble. The next year, progressive candidates won a majority on the Board of Supervisors and held it for almost a decade.

One of those supervisors was Chris Daly, now political director of SEIU Local 1021, who was at the North Beach party and told the Guardian that while Mayor Lee has been trying to defend bad policies like his Twitter tax break and support for 8 Washington, the voters tonight really had their fingers on the pulse of the city: “I’d call this a referendum on Ed Lee’s policies in San Francisco.”

Meanwhile, it was a very different scene over at the Yes on B&C party:

The party was held at Coqueta, an upscale waterfront establishment just a stone's throw from the 8 Washington project site. Despite the trays of gourmet hors d'oeuvres and frothy mojitos floating past, the guests were subdued and the mood was not celebratory.

Developer Simon Snellgrove, whose 8 Washington project was essentially being flushed down the tubes tonight, was in no mood to comment. "I'm having a little private party tonight," he told us, "and I don't want to talk to the press."

Rose Pak, a consultant for the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce who is well-known for her ties to powerful interests in the city, had a small circle of guests around her throughout the night and spent some time catching up with Snellgrove. Asked to comment, Pak said, "I don't know the Bay Guardian," and stopped making eye contact. At previous events, Pak has lectured Guardian reporters about what she sees as the paper's shortcomings.

Other notables included Jim Lazarus, who works on public policy for the Chamber of Commerce, P.J. Johnston, a former communications director for Willie Brown, and of course Tim Colen of the Housing Action Coalition and former planner Alec Bash, both of whom campaigned publicly for the project.

Mayor Ed Lee was expected to make an appearance but if he did, it was after the party's prime and after the Guardian had already left the scene.

After the first round of results came in, Colen addressed the crowd. "The returns are coming in and I have to tell you they don’t look good," he said. "It's pretty likely we're not going to prevail tonight." Then went onto recognize "some really magnificent warriors" in the room, including Snellgrove and Alicia Esterkamp Allbin, a Principal at development firm Pacific Waterfront Partners.

"We ran a wonderful campaign we can all be proud of,” he added. “It was going to be a wonderful activation for the waterfront. I think what we didn't see coming was how .. it somehow morphed into something much larger and was defined in different ways."

Lazarus told the Guardian, "I'm not optimistic," when asked early on in the night what he thought about the outcome. He added, "I think this project got caught up in a lot of other things."

"If it loses ... There was a lot of I think mistaken concern about the impact.”

Noting that the project went through months of approval but then was subject to a referendum and finally wound up on the ballot, he criticized the focus on building heights and the idea that it was about something more than just a waterfront development project. But this was the outcome, he said, because "An unholy alliance of people got together to oppose the project."

Perhaps “unholy alliance” is in the eyes of the beholder, but tonight, the voters of San Francisco seemed to prefer the alliance that opposed 8 Washington and all that it has come to represent in San Francisco.


Who is Arthur Evans?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

Who is Matt Evans, Arthur Gonzalez?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

Does this mean San Francisco will become more like Carmel than Manhattan?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:17 am

In celebration, I will erect a thousand troll walls today!

Posted by racer さ on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:20 am

The San Francisco Bay Guardian - the defenders of Old Money in San Francisco!

Posted by racer さ on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:32 am

Hmmm. That line about Rose Pak: "Pak said, "I don't know the Bay Guardian," and stopped making eye contact." kind of says a lot. I, personally, have nothing against rich people and developers...it's when money starts to run the show that I get agitated. The fact that she, who has a lot of power in this town, would say something so insulting to a paper that's been around as long as it has and represents the people is telling. So is the body language, which doesn't lie.

And so let them taste defeat. Maybe with time, they will start to get that we are all in this together. Let the rich be rich, let them live where they will--but let's do it sustainably and not at the expense of everyone else.

Posted by Daniele E. on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:44 am

I've been reading the Guardian since I moved to SF in 2000 but these days, after the massive turnover of ownership, leadership and writers, I don't know it either. The only continuity is provided by Jones and his insane commenters. So maybe that's what Rose was referring to.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:56 am


in fact Pak embodies pettiness

Posted by lksdjf on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:00 am

because having Ed Lee preside over the evictions of 80 year old chinese couples is not going to play well in Chinatown.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

Meanwhile luxury condo towers continue to be built around the city, especially in mid and upper-Market and the cost of them continues to rise. Within 5 years the average cost of residence here will exceed $1.5 million. That's progress for you!!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 11:08 am

Voters in favor of B&C had no skin in the game. Only the developers and potential tenants had anything to gain from the project. People may have been okay with it, but it's not something that sends you running to your polling place.

The passion was on the side of the opposition to these ballot measure.

Posted by Erika McDonald on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 11:11 am

opposed 8-Wash were passionate about that, while those who were OK with it were not that bothered about it either way, so many didn't bother to vote.

Many people also didn't want it on the ballot at all, which means it would have been built.

Hard to see how that level of opposition could be maintained for every project that comes up, so I do not think this will change much.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 11:23 am

It’s a mistaken assumption to believe that the voters’ rejection of the 8 Washington project means the proposed Warriors arena would have the same fate. In fact, every city-wide public opinion poll over the past year shows that a majority of San Francisco residents support the idea of a Warriors arena at Piers 30—32.

A September 2012 poll by the polling firm of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates showed that 68 percent of San Francisco residents supported the Warriors arena at Piers 30-32, with 18 percent opposed and 14 percent undecided. A January 2013 poll by David Binder Research showed that 60 percent of San Francisco residents supported the arena proposal with 28 percent opposed and 12 percent undecided. A March 2013 poll by Survey USA for KPIX-TV showed that 59 percent of San Francisco residents supported the arena project with 25 percent opposed and 16 percent undecided. And the most recent poll of city residents taken in September 2013 by David Binder Research showed that 62 percent of city residents supported the arena project with 29 percent opposed and 9 percent undecided.

Those same polls showed that the 8 Washington measure was going down to defeat. That means that city residents see a big difference between a luxury condominium project most of them can’t afford and an arena project where many of them would use to go to concerts and basketball games.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 11:49 am

This smells like ass because you just pulled it out of your ass.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 11:56 am

Is that the most intelligent comment you can make?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 12:05 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

I'm happy as a pig in shit today. I biked by 8 Washington just now and laughed my fucking ass off.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

There will other high-end condo's built there that you can never afford.

And you will just be a sad old gay loser.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

...showing renderings of what that monstrosity is projected to look like on our waterfront. There are plenty of wealthy San Franciscans who do not want to see that stadium go in on those piers.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 11:58 am

There are plenty of weathly San Franciscans who don't want the arena? Like who? Name one.

I also find it incredibly hypocritical how proressives will jump into bed with the rich when its suits them but then goes back to demonizing them after the election.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

Ed Lee won in 2011 by a 20 percent margin with a 40 percent voter turnout. Yet progressives said he did not have a mandate. Props B & C lose by a large margin with a 22 percent turnout and its considered a "progressive mandate." Sorry but that doesn't add up.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

More San Franciscans voted to reject B and C than voted for Ed Lee.
Ergo, you can suck it.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

Incorrect and irrelevant. You stopped one project, but SF is building at the fastest pace in decades. Whole Foods is now on the border of the Mission. A 24th and Mission location is next. Your god is dead.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

I shop at Whole Foods, numb nuts. I'm perfectly okay with most of the development around the city. Your god, the god of bitterness, anger, envy and greed, is currently jizzing in your mouth.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:35 pm

Explain envy

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:51 pm

Attack of the NIMBY, ok folks here I go.

Palo Alto voted down Measure D that would have allowed senior housing to be built with 12 single family homes. The sale of the family home lots would have allowed the senior housing to be built.

We just want to preserve everything from views to the neighborhood and have little traffic but yet want to have our high paying jobs to our a nice car. No Traffic but lousy transit options that would take loads of money and people to achieve change.

Even in San Francisco they want to have the lifestyle that could be found in Palo Alto, Piedmont or Woodside. One day the business end of the bay area is just going to give up, people are going to give up.

Posted by Garrett on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

Aspen. I want San Francisco to have the look and feel of Aspen.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

specifically, The Other Side of Aspen part 2.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

You are showing your advanced age, imp troll.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

You didn't seem to mind my advanced age in the golds steam room the other night

Posted by Trevor on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

I thought he had given that up when he found his "husband" (yuk).

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

No, no issues there. Marcos continues to go strong with his steam room endeavors, and bar endeavors, and back alley endeavors, and ...

Posted by Trevor on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

I am overwhelmed by joy that Props. B and C. went down to defeat. It is absolutely CRAZY to think that building luxury condos was the best use for this property. Mr. Snellgrove's million dollars to the low-income housing dept. is a joke. What does a million dollars buy you in this City? If they had been built, you would have no longer been able to see Coit Tower from the Ferry Building(unless you were in the clock tower). I am tired of traffic concerns being "thrown under the bus", also. Wether it is 8 Washington, or the Warrior's Stadium, you just can not put more traffic on the waterfront and expect it to function. As it is now, I wouldn't eat at any of the waterfront restaurants due to all the exhaust fumes and ash debris that is created practically every day by vehicles idling and going nowhere on the Embarcadero. It is just a matter of time before the California Smog people catch-up to San Francisco and determine that most of the exhaust/smog that could be easily mitigated by proper traffic management, is coming from 'lil 'ol San Francisco. This election referendum shows there are still signs of life in 'lil ol' San Francisco. The return of Truth and Common Sense was welcome, a little like seeing a friend that you had thought died. Now, it is time to rip the mask off Mayor Ed Lee, and we will find the face of Willie Brown and his syncophants. As Louise Renne put it, "this is just the beginning"..

Posted by Don Crabtree on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

was a pittance - right on Don!! Let them eat cake!!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

and you can eat cock!
Sounds like a pretty good deal for you.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:39 pm

The schaudenfreude train is leaving the station folks!
All abooooooard!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

SF is going to be a lot wealthier tomorrow than today.

Gotta love America

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 4:09 pm

Big fucking whoop!

You wrote:

"Gotta love America"

Which one?

I do love América del Sur (that español for South América). It's a beautiful country and many parts of the country are more advanced than the US. Just do some travelling and you'll see that.

And what does an IPO from a world-corporation have to do with "loving America?" jesus fucking christ. These corporations really brainwash these trolls on here and they're too stupid to see it.

Twitter has no real value. It's a time-waster.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 6:44 pm

residents will have a lot more money, which in turn means more job opportunities serving them and providing them with products.

18 billion of wealth is being created tomorrow, and we are lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I'm only getting a small allocation but I'll still make some decent scratch.

That's why I love America and, no, I have no interest in going to the basketcases down south, amigo.

Go America!

Posted by anon on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

It is a transfer of wealth from stock buyers to stock issuers.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:06 pm

Wealth alone isn't often worth much unless it can be converted to cash or some other liquid form. An employee sitting on 15 thousand shares of restricted stock options potentially worth over $3-4 million doesn't get squat if she leaves the company before it "goes public" or if the company never goes public. Even after the IPO she may have to wait 60 or 120 days before being allowed to sell the stock.

The main function of most IPOs is to allow the original investors (hedge funds and investment partnerships) to get their money back with gains up to 1,000%. The company's executives will often earn millions from the IPO and, of course, the company founder(s) might be worth hundreds of millions after the IPO since the paper they've been holding finally has a value and is eventually convertible to cash. The company itself brings in a lot of cash for the stock it sells to the public too, which allows the company to expand and pay off debts.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

business then it is new wealth. Wealth isn't a constant across time. It increases as new businesses are created and revenues, earnings and dividends increase year-on-year.

If that wasn't true, our collective net worth would never change.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:40 pm

If it goes up, then yes. If it goes down, poof.

Ask Zynga how the wealth creation worked out for them.

Tomorrow is a transfer of wealth from buyers to sellers. Eventually, Twitter will be a penny stock and how any individual does will depend on when he started playing musical chairs.

Labor creates all wealth.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:05 pm

I'm saying that's a lot of scratch.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 7:04 am

Where did all that scratch go?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 8:33 am

Leave any future loss to some other sucker.

The Porsche showrooms will be busy today in SF

Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 9:25 am

Adding to that: Caracas has a beautiful metro system. It makes Muni and BART look obsolete.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 7:09 pm

never think of relocating there, but instead stay in the country you all claim to hate.

Posted by anon on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

Hey dad, you were wrong 40 years ago and you're wrong now. Respectful criticism is the way people communicate their discomfort with the status quo. If you can't take listening to the criticism, go back to watching TV and shut-up with your stupid opinions.

Psychologists tell us that the natural response to human discomfort is to either fight it or run. Both are logical responses, with individuals often having a preference for one response or the other.

So dad (anon), fighting against government oppression and business oppression and employer oppression and landlord oppression, wherever it ocurs - and especially if it's happening around you - is a very natural response to the discomfort caused by these powerful institutions.

Just like 45 years ago, I can understand why those at the top of the heap might be feeling a bit uneasy. Now it's not just race riots, or women marches or student riots you have to worry about, it's a very large underbelly of society that is finally understanding the entire economic game is rigged in favor of the families with most of the assets - those with the real estate fortunes, the scions of industry, the elite banker and Wall Street class, and of course the political and bureaucrat class that hold it all together with the force of thousands of various police and secuity agencies.

I hope you and I get to live long enough to see how it all plays out, because it could be fun to watch.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:18 pm

More like Archie Bunker who actually did "Urologize" Stretch Cunningham who turned out to be a Jew.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:27 pm

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