City rules Bayview plan petition invalid

City attorney: Project’s foes lacked ‘essential documents’ to qualify ballot measure

The city attorney announced Tuesday that the petition circulated to prevent a sweeping redevelopment project in Bayview-Hunters Point was invalid — less than one week after opponents celebrated gathering the 21,000-plus signatures needed to stall the building plan and put it before voters in 2007.

Petition supporters say the 1,300-acre overhaul of The City’s southeast side will take control of local development from the area’s mostly African-American residents, eventually displacing them as other, more affluent city residents move in. The petition effort began in June, a few days after Mayor Gavin Newsom put his signature of approval on the $188 million plan.

Inquiries about the petition’s validity from Newsom and other city officials, including Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, the southeast district representative who championed the redevelopment effort, led to the legal investigation from City Attorney Dennis Herrera, according to a press release from Herrera’s office.

A referendum offers voters the power to nullify an ordinance approved by The City’s Board of Supervisors. Once the required signatures are filed — within 90 days after being signed into law by the mayor — city lawmakers are required to either reject the ordinance or present it to the voters.

According to Herrera, the referendum petition that was circulated in the community was invalid because, although it included the city ordinance about the redevelopment plan, it omitted “such obviously essential documents as the Redevelopment Plan itself,” according to the press release.

One of the organizers of the petition, Willie Ratcliff, the longtime editor of the SF Bayview newspaper, said he had presented the petition to the office of the Board of Supervisors and the Department of Elections, and had it checked by a private attorney to make sure it complied with legal requirements.

“We think this is a last-ditch effort to try and deny the people,” said Ratcliff, who vowed to fight The City’s decision.

Election Department chief John Arntz said his office only validates signatures and makes it clear that with referendums it’s up to the petitioners to make sure the formatting and process is according to state and local laws.

Supporters of the redevelopment plan say it has been nearly a decade in the making, and in that time there has been plenty of opportunity for community input and involvement. Maxwell has accused the petition leaders of using fear tactics to prevent implementation of the plan, which includes new housing and parks, as well as improvements to street and commercial areas.

“Ours is a plan filled with hope and opportunity,” Maxwell said in a statement for the press. “It is a plan to invest in the residents of Bayview-Hunters Point. We are saying that you are valued, that you can overcome the violence, and that we want you to stay and thrive in our city.”

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