Opponents of a plan to overhaul 1,300 acres of San Francisco’s southeast sector filed a lawsuit against The City in an effort to stall the redevelopment effort and put the plan before San Francisco voters.
In June, Mayor Gavin Newsom put his signature of approval on the $188 million Bayview-Hunters Point redevelopment proposal, which includes 3,700 units of market-rate and affordable housing, new parks and improvements to street and commercial areas.
Shortly thereafter, critics of the redevelopment effort began circulating a referendum petition, saying the 30-year plan will take control of local development from the area’s mostly African-American residents, eventually displacing them as more affluent city residents move in.
In September, The City’s Department of Elections confirmed that the campaign had gathered enough valid signatures — more than the 21,615 required — to put the referendum on the ballot.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, however, subsequently issued a legal opinion that the petition was invalid because, although it included the city ordinance about the redevelopment plan, it omitted the redevelopment plan itself. The city attorney said he reviewed the petition at the request of Newsom and other city officials, including Sophie Maxwell, the southeast district supervisor who championed the redevelopment effort.
“If you were to follow the city attorney’s logic, he’s saying we should have attached, physically, a mini telephone book to each petition,” said the campaign’s coordinator, Brian O’Flynn. “The voters are being disenfranchised from their right.”
A referendum petition on a redevelopment plan needs to include the redevelopment plan, City Attorney’s Office spokesman Matt Dorsey said, while conceding that attaching the 57-page plan could be considered burdensome.
“There may be a very good point about why the law should be changed, but they should take that to the Legislature,” Dorsey said. “The role of the city attorney is to call it right, and let the chips fall where they may, even if it’s politically unpopular.”
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.
A referendum offers voters the power to nullify an ordinance approved by the Board of Supervisors. Once the required signatures are filed — within 90 days after signed into law by the mayor — the city legislators are then required to either reject the ordinance or present it to the voters.