Voter signatures to qualify waterfront height measure on ballot await certification

San Francisco voters could soon become the official guardians of the allowable height limits for The City’s prized waterfront property.

It appears more than enough signatures to place an initiative on waterfront height limits on the June ballot were submitted Monday to the Department of Elections. If the measure is approved, proposed developments that exceed current Port of San Francisco height regulations would be forced to receive voter approval. Waterfront height limits generally range from 40 to 105 feet.

While 9,702 valid signatures were required, proponents submitted 21,067, which were gathered in the past three weeks by 400 paid or volunteer workers. The department has 30 days to certify them. The effort comes on the heels of voters soundly defeating in November the 8 Washington St. luxury condo waterfront development, which the Board of Supervisors had approved.

The measure, though impacting the entire waterfront, would most immediately impact the Golden State Warriors arena project, as well as the Giants’ development plans. Arena project organizers announced they have pushed back plans at least a year beyond 2017.

Both the Giants and the Warriors haven’t publicly taken a position on the ballot measure. Some have suggested they won’t wage a campaign to counter the June effort and will instead focus their resources on what could soon become required ballot measures for their respective developments.

“This is really a voter revolt against the overdevelopment of our waterfront, plans to rewrite the city rules to build high rises and blow off the existing height limits,” said the measure’s campaign manger, Jon Golinger. “This is a measure to give people the voice in the process.”

Key signers include Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, state Sen. Mark Leno, former Mayor Art Agnos and Board of Supervisors David Campos and Eric Mar, according to Golinger.

Another notable proponent is Becky Evans, the Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter chair. The Sierra Club has also endorsed the measure as a group and is against the Warriors arena.

Evans said that the effort isn’t about any one specific project but the Warriors’ development is a good example of the problem. “It doesn’t belong there. It is too big. The traffic impacts with the neighborhood would be very bad. It would also bring a lot of air pollution to the neighborhood that is already suffering. It has no maritime uses,” Evans said.

Mark Bittner, author of the book “Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,” who also lives in that neighborhood, was on hand to support the campaign. “The development of the waterfront has gotten ridiculous,” Bittner said. “The town’s changing its character. I’ve been here since ’73 and it used to be a lot more interesting place. It’s gotten very expensive to live here. I don’t find wealthy people that interesting frankly.”

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