Let’s set the record straight on the Sierra Club’s opposition to Proposition D, the Giants’ proposal for publicly owned port land at Mission Rock.
Prop. D calls for 11 towers on the waterfront, the shortest of which would be 90 feet tall. Several of the buildings would be 120 feet tall, and three would stand 240 feet tall. The towers would rival the two Fontana Towers at Aquatic Park. In contrast, the Pier 70 waterfront development project, which the Sierra Club endorsed in 2014, tops out at 90 feet. (That project also made strong commitments to creating affordable housing and new waterfront parkland.)
Tall buildings along the waterfront block views and cast shadows that darken open space along the Bay — a limited and precious resource that belongs to all the people. But the height-limit exemptions are just one reason for Sierra Club opposition.
San Francisco has a pressing need for housing, but it’s unclear how much housing the development would include — the ballot measure says anywhere from approximately 1,000 to 1,950 units. Most will be luxury units, and there is no guarantee that the 11 waterfront towers won’t be exclusively for offices and commercial use with zero housing.
When the Department of Elections certified Prop. D in May, there had been talk of a rival, better measure, and in June, the Sierra Club announced its opposition to Prop. D. Hours later, Supervisor Jane Kim announced an agreement with the Giants that improved the percentage of affordable housing to be built and the range of affordability a little — but her agreement did not address the project’s other flaws.
Embedded in Prop. D are bad policies that set very bad precedents. Prop. D makes it policy to allow the developer to use public Jobs-Housing Linkage funds, paid by the developer on the nonresidential portions of the project, to build affordable housing, instead of financing it itself.
Also, The City collects parking taxes from all paid parking. Eighty percent of those taxes go into Muni operating funds, and 20 percent toward senior services. The Giants are proposing that they be able to keep the Mission Rock parking taxes for transportation projects, depriving Muni of operating funds and worsening transit.
The project also has too much parking. It includes a 10-story parking garage with 2,300 parking spaces on an entire city block — this in a neighborhood that already has 9,000 nonresidential parking spaces. This amount of parking would make the streets more congested than they already are.
The Sierra Club supports complete, compact communities that are walkable, bikeable and well-served by public transit. We are a strong supporter of the concept of the Bay Area’s Priority Development Areas, which target neighborhoods with good public transit infrastructure for infill development. The SF Group of the Sierra Club, in particular, has been especially active in efforts to preserve and build affordable housing in The City. To that end, we are supporting all the other housing-related measures on November’s ballot. Just not Prop. D.
When it comes to planning for our city’s future, the devil is always in the details. Members of SFBARF were not at the table when the Sierra Club was discussing the Giants’ proposal this past spring and they seem to be unfamiliar with — or indifferent to — the developer giveaways included in Prop. D.
Becky Evans is the Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter chairperson. Susan Vaughan is the Sierra Club SF Group chairperson.