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.


Not that we are taking them to the cleaners.

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

Correction: the word "country" should be "continent" in the post above.

Don't know why I wrote that, other than I was thinking about one particular country at the time. There are 13 countries in América del Sur.

Based on the one perpetually-ignorant and anti-ethnic troll response below, that person clearly knows nothing about América del Sur other than what they've been dutifully fed by the US corporate media, which promotes the myopic view that "the US is The World".

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

Everyone has an ethnicity, so does that mean he hates everyone?

You love it there, quit whining and move there.

Posted by anon on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

and then we think about the grim reality that the US may very well bomb those places and/or foment violent local civil wars in them, so that it can get access to and steal their resources

and we stay where we are at

Posted by lkdjfv on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 1:40 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 1:53 pm


(the fact that you responded to it as if it was serious, yet again reveals what a vapid simpleton you are)

the primary reason we don't move somewhere else is that we have a right to stay in our own fucking country, and are not interested in moving somewhere else so that asinine pricks like you can turn it into their personal frat party zone

Posted by lkdjf on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

Right, we stole this country fair and square!

Posted by marcos on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

(unless you're an illegal).

What was said was that people who whine about how much better other nations are somehow never get around to relocating.

I guess they'd rather whine than be happy.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

we are pointing out the ways that other countries which we respect for their successes, have -some- systems like universal health care and housing-as-a-right that are dramatically superior to their counterpart systems in the US

that doesn't mean, and never has meant, that we consider the US so inferior that we must leave it

however we do consider pathetic, useless financial parasites like yourself, to be inferior enough, and damaging enough to our country, that


should leave

Posted by lk on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 4:58 pm

that is what you want, staying here is illogical.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 6:40 am

The US is doing everything possible to piss away its position of economic and political preeminence. Since bananas don't really grow here, I'm not sure that is the best comparison. But after the rest of the world completes its abandonment of the dollar as the reserve currency, then the US will only be able to import goods and services based on the value of the hard currency that it earns from imports. Since the rest of the world will not pay top dollar for toxic financial instruments that comprise almost half of the US economy, we will need to be paying full freight for goods and services in currency that we just don't have. This will be how strict adherence to the theoclassical economics scriptures will play out. The upshot will be authoritarian fascist at first, but I'd wager that as conditions deteriorate, Americans will resist and overthrow that. Whether "socialism" or a more European style social democracy plays out remains to be seen. But the status quo is deteriorating and cannot hold.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 7:04 am

and hedging the dollar. I actually hope what you describe happens, as I know exactly how to profit from it, and in non-dollar terms as well.

In your doomsday scenario, the wealthy will hold assets overseas and the same people that lose now will lose even more.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 7:23 am

Someone wrote:

"Whole Foods is now on the border of the Mission. A 24th and Mission location is next."

And that's important because of why? There are grocery stores all over the city. Why is it critical to have corporate chain Whole Paycheck (as it's also known) saturating the city? Or is this important because it's an elitist-status store?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 4:30 pm

It's not a matter of whether it is "important" for any store to open in any location. It's only important to (in this case) WholeFoods as they are the ones risking their capital and, if the location was chosen badly, their store will fail and they will lose a lot of money.

And in fact there was already a WholeFoods close to the Mission - on 24th St. in Noe Valley. Now there is another one on Market. And there may well be another to the East of the Mission. If they all thrive, then it's worthwhile. The more choice, the better.

You may not like this but people love WholeFoods. The good news for you is that nobody forces you to shop there. You have a problem with choice?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

Is that it?

Does the sight of a Google bus make you mad? What about a fur coat or a diamond ring?

Do you hate everyone wealthier and more successful than you?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

"Whole Foods is now on the border of the Mission. A 24th and Mission location is next."

Who the fuck cares?!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 6:03 pm

I have many problems with Whole Paycheck. What they call organic food often is not. It's conventional. ABC7 did a report on that corporate chain store and the food coming from China.

It said on the package that it came from China but the package implied the food came from California. Why would anyone eat anything coming from China?

Wouldn't people rather eat food that is grown locally and supports our local farmers? Customers of Whole Paycheck don't seem to care about that when they are only blocks away from the local farmers' market which has locally grown food here in CA and keeps the dollar local as opposed to giving money to a mega corporate chain store.

There is also way too much plastic packaging in Whole Paycheck whereas some of the local stores use compostable biobags made of non-GMO corn which helps to put people in this country to work and concern for the environment.

Whole Paycheck's "footprint" on the Earth is staggering with all the fossil-fuel use.

One could shop at one of the local health food stores instead. Those are small and locally-owned and the money stays in the local area. These are among the problems I have with Whole Paycheck and it's outrageously expensive as well. That's called greed.

Of course the WF trolls on this site---some of whom may work for Whole Paycheck otherwise they wouldn't act like a rabid salesperson for the company---couldn't care less about the local economy, or what they eat and they will never "get it" nor do they want to. Their occupation is trolling for the superficial and shallow elite and for Whole Paycheck. But hopefully the trolls are eating LOTS of GMOs. It's good for trolls. Also, hopefully the trolls are eating plenty of Pacific "Fukushima" fish. It's good for you. Eat lots of it.


The video showing the ABC7 investigation:

put this title in your search engine:

Whole Foods Market China Organic California blend ?

From the video description:

"Whole Food's Dirty Little Secret: Most of the So-Called "Natural" Processed Foods and Animal Products They Sell Are Contaminated with GMOs! Approximately 2/3 of the products sold by Whole Foods Market and their main distributor, United Natural Foods (UNFI) are not certified organic, but rather are conventional (chemical-intensive and GMO-tainted) foods and products disguised as "natural." This video is from 2009 produced by I-Team news about Whole Foods deception. The show pointed out how WF have been deceiving customers for years including me. Products stated certified organic Californian etc while it printed with small letters in the back Made in China. We all know the Chinese products are not certified organic by FDA and there is no way you can insist they are...............
2011 UPDATE: Whole Foods Market has given in to Monsanto and now will sell UN-labeled GMO's !!!"

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

reason for it not to open nor for you to try and deprive others who do like the store with an opportunity to shop there.

Personally, I LOVE WholeFoods for their range, service, ambiance and the other customers there are cool and nice.

Posted by anon on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 6:48 pm

Well then keep going there idiot, and continue to be part of the problem.

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

You're not a very good advert for the left. Progressives are supposed to practice tolerance.

Posted by anon on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

“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.:

Add to that the city-wide nudity ban to which Chiu was the deciding vote as well.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:31 pm
Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:11 pm

6 pages of comments!
Get upset much losers?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 1:03 am

11 million for affordable housing rather than complaining by those who would never need it anyway.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 9:24 am

the comments are mostly you making an ass of yourself while the rest of us laugh at you.
Thanks for the show, pinhead.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 12:03 am
Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 6:39 am

Why didn't the developers come in under the height limits?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 6:36 pm


Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

expensive as it is in that location.

That's why all the other buildings around there are much taller including, ironically, the building where the whiney rich people live who funded this, whose home blocks the view of far more people than 8-Wash would have done.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 6:38 am

It is not economical to demand custom upzonings when the voters don't want that.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 7:10 am

That's why even the voters are happy to delegate such decisions to those our elected representatives appoint. The most common complaint that I heard from voters about B and C were - why are these on the ballot?

8-Wash is the exception but that was only due to a one-off bizarre campaign by a couple of ornery rich folks.

If you were right, I would not be able to see a second 50-floor condo tower going up at Rincom Hill, nor a whole spate of condo's going up on Market St.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 7:20 am

every time progressives propose radical changes in policy

and now all of sudden voters are capricious emotional fools who can't be counted on to make the right decisions

you pathetic idiots sure know how to stumble all over yourselves, don't you?

apparently your envy of superior progressive organizing skills is making you manic and confused

Posted by ylksjgf on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 7:47 am

There are many things the voters should not be deciding directly, but delegating to those whom they elect.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:15 am

elected representatives should set policy if you predict they will do what you prefer (or they have already done it)

and when you believe representatives won't do what you like, the voters should decide....

Posted by ylksjg on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:37 am

progressive initiative passes - like 8Wash, it's the voice of the people.

But every time one loses, like public power, the election was rigged or bought.

Rather I think the planning commission does a good job of deciding these things and we cannot have a voter proposition for every new building. This one was an outlier. Everything else has been approved and is being built.

Posted by anon on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 9:59 am

Snellgrove's emotions must have taken a big hit when he missed out on profits measured in percentages of a billion dollars.

Rose Pak's emotional state was on display for all to see at the "victory" party.

And I'm sure that Tim Colen's well known stable mental state suffered no distress at this crushing loss.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:02 am

Your sympathy for them is misplaced. They will do just fine regardless.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:16 am

Buh bye, I-80 West or US-101 north or south works just fine. Might I suggest building the kind of housing that is needed where it is needed? How about building up along the BART ring from Fremont to Hayward to San Francisco's average 45' height limit and then coming back to San Francisco with these crazy get-rich-quick up zoning schemes?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:27 am

achieve even more success is beyond your pay grade.

There's plenty of money to be made everywhere.

I-80 only goes from east from here, by the way.

Posted by anon on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 9:57 am

With a million more people relocating to the Bay Area in the next few decade, and maybe 200,000 more coming to SF, we will need higher housing densities both in the city and along the main population corridors.

I'd agree with you that housing policy should not be planned on a city-by-city basis but rather planned across the entire Bay Area. But not that we can get away without taller residential buildings.

Not that 8Wash was particularly tall anyway. In fact it was lower than the buildings around it, whereas the problem with height is usually where a proposed structure is taller than the surrounding buildings.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 10:11 am

"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."

With just 24% of registered voters in NYC participating in the election, and de Blasio's receiving 16% of registered voters, that can hardly be characterized as ""resounding victory."

And "progressive" Bill de Blasio? WTF? Just because he has a D next to his name?.

He's a Clinton neoliberal, Democratic Party hack paid for by private interests. De Blasio associated with and received money from the executives of Goldman Sachs and the top hedge funds as well as others who deserve to be in prison for their actions that provoked the financial meltdown of 2008.

This word progressive has become such an empty word, just thrown at people who don't deserve to be called a progressive, and misused. There was a time when words like "progressive" and "populist" and "liberal" actually meant something. These days, The Left and real progressives (all 2 of us) begin where the Democratic Party ends.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 8:18 pm

But it is still meaningful that New York City voters for the first time in a very long time actually voted for a Democrat instead of yet another quality-of-life driven conservative; and it is notable that de Balsio had to campaign with some -very- progressive talking points to get that landslide vote.

These factors show that the electorate has made a dramatic shift in thinking.

And that is a positive sign.

And so was the 8 Washington vote.

There is definitely a mental evolution in the public happening nationwide, and locally we are seeing it.

If we catch, and help amplify and guide, that wave, we can make change.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

this time it's the beginning of a massively significant seismic shift to the left in America.

And every time you are wrong.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 6:36 am

massive shifts like the environmental movement, civil rights movement, women's movement, disability rights victories, and most recently the LGBT rights/marriage seismic shift?

actually massive progressive shifts happen all the time in US society, in every decade

so you clearly have your head up your ass, making it functionally impossible for you to pay attention to what is regularly going on all around you

got any other blatantly idiotic claims you'd like to put forward?

Posted by ylksjg on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:02 am

inequality and the lack of affordable housing because those are all the result of your progressive victories.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:14 am

the very subject we have been discussing is that there has not yet been a housing rights/equality movement, and there now appears to be one building, similar to previous rights movements

the previous movements i mentioned as examples had little or no impact on affordable housing policy

you're clearly not following my remove-your-head-from-your-ass advice

Posted by ylksj on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:48 am

Lots of market-rate condos are going up, while rent control has been restricted at the State level.

Posted by anon on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 9:55 am
Posted by anon on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:18 am

tell you what

remove you head from your ass as recommended

then go study the history of rights movements

then come back to blog posting with an actual education that prevents you from making a complete idiot of yourself

i had no idea what an uneducated dolt you were until you engaged this last round of debates

ok, now, once you get done looking up the definition of 'dolt'

by all means post yet another brainless response that shows how poor your education was

either that or admit you are still in junior high school

the question is

are you thirteen

or have you just been held back for a




Posted by ylks on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:56 am

Democrat governments, not extremist activists.

The kind of polices that Eric wants, i.e. wholesale government ownership of business, is nowhere close to ever happening here.

Posted by anon on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 9:54 am

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