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UPDATE: SF to settle lawsuit with state over Prop. B waterfront height limits

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The State Lands Commission is suing San Francisco over Proposition B, which in 2014 gave voters the power to decide height limits for developments along the waterfront.

San Francisco has reached a tentative settlement with the California State Lands Commission in the legal battle over waterfront height limits, upholding voter control of tall developments along the waterfront under Proposition B.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Wednesday that the State Lands Commission will drop its lawsuit challenging the 2014 ballot measure and the approvals of Pier 70 and Mission Rock, two major projects on the waterfront.

“This agreement protects the will of San Francisco voters,” Herrera said in a statement. “It ends this lawsuit while ensuring that voters continue to have their voices heard when it comes to the use, access and enjoyment of San Francisco’s waterfront.”

The agreement comes as San Francisco and the State Lands Commission await a ruling from San Francisco Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos. The two parties went to trial last month for four days over the lawsuit.

The proposed settlement means that future projects proposed beyond height limits on the waterfront will have to seek approval at the ballot box, which can be costly and challenging for developers.

“Prop. B stands,” said Jon Golinger, a political consultant to championed Prop. B. “Big picture is this ends once and for all whether the voters of San Francisco have a say over what our waterfront should look like. We do.”

Under the settlement, San Francisco agreed to “acknowledge that it is subject to particular state laws concerning the public trust.” The City must also find that future legislation or resolutions at the Board of Supervisors or Port Commission are “consistent with the public trust.”

The Board of Supervisors must also consider an ordinance amending the Elections Code to require voter initiatives involving trust land include in ballot pamphlets that “the lands are held in trust for the People of California.”

The change will ensure that the State Lands Commission does not sue again over Prop B.

“Common sense prevailed and I’m pleased that hard working and dedicated staff have agreed on a settlement solution that I’ve long called for,” Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, chair of the State Lands Commission, said in a statement.

Newsom said the agreement prevents “Prop. B from creating a precedent weakening environmental protections statewide.”

“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to accomplish this in tandem with upholding the will of San Francisco voters and shielding taxpayers from further unnecessary legal costs,” Newsom said.

The State Lands Commission also agreed to help the Port of San Francisco seek funding for seawall repairs.

This story has been updated.

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