Embarcadero vision jeopardized

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Several powerful community groups sued to delay a development study along the northeastern Embarcadero that could change the iconic San Francisco waterfront.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in San Francisco Superior Court claims that a Planning Department study of the waterfront between the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf is being done without the proper environmental review. Neighbors complain that development could rise higher than current regulations, marring their view of the Bay.

The study is meant to “guide the development of properties along the west side of The Embarcadero, from Washington Street to North Point Street, in a common direction,” according to the Planning Department. “The study also aims to create a pleasing public realm that connects The City to the waterfront and strengthens the linear promenade on the west side of The Embarcadero.”

The groups protesting the study include Neighbors to Preserve the Waterfront, Friends of Golden Gateway, Telegraph Hill Dwellers, Golden Gateway Tenants Association, the San Francisco Neighborhood Network and San Franciscans for Reasonable Growth. If the lawsuit is successful, the court could essentially put a halt to any further movement until an environmental review is conducted under the California Environmental Quality Act.

“We couldn’t let this blatant breach of environmental law go unchallenged,” Dick Stewart, chair of the group, said in a statement. “It would set a terrible precedent for similar violations and backroom development deals throughout The City.”

Susan Brandt-Hawley, an attorney for the group, pointed out that under approval of the study, a project at 8 Washington St. was submitted with increased heights that could mar neighbors’ views.

That project would put 140 to 170 high-end condominiums on the current site of a tennis club and parking lot. That project, along with proposals for a hotel, have been met by strong resistance from neighborhood groups.

The City Attorney’s Office will be charged with defending the Planning Department’s approval of the study.

“We have not received the suit, so we cannot comment at this time,” spokesman Jack Song said.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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