8 Washington isn't getting much better


When the Board of Supervisors approved the environmental impact report for the most expensive condos in San Francisco history, several members of the board said they weren't entirely happy with the project. Supervisors Christina Olague and Eric Mar both complained about the height and bulk and Olague said she wanted a parking fee.

So now the project is back, and just won approval at the Budget and Finance Commitee -- with only a few minor changes. There's no adjustment to the height and bulk, although the parking has been cut from 255 spaces to 200 and a 50-cent parking surcharge has been added. Sup. Jane Kim wants to be sure that the pool built in the new facility will be open to low-income youth.

But the city's not getting a dime more than the $11 million in affordable housing money that developer Simon Snellgrove has already offered -- despite the fact that the available financial evidence suggests Snellgrove and his partners will make more than $250 million on the deal. Sup John Avalos made clear that the city's not getting enough out of this project.

So now it goes to the full board June 12 -- and if things go according to the normal San Francisco pattern, the developer will get what he wants and the city will get screwed.

See, when you give developers the opening, they take advantage of it. When you let them over the first hurdle with and 8-3 vote, they get pretty confident that they're going to win. So why would they compromise on more than few details? Why cut the height and bulk when you know you have the votes?

I respect what Eric Mar, Jane Kim and Christina Olague said about their votes on the EIR -- but imagine if it had been a 6-5 vote? Snellgrove might have gotten the message that this wouldn't be easy. He might be calling Olague and Mar and saying: How much less height? How much less bulk? How much more affordable housing? We might have wound up with a much better deal.

Every time -- every single time -- a developer presents what is supposed to be the last, best deal it's a scam. Every time the city has said No, the developer has come back and sweetened the pot. That would have happened here, too.

But no. I predict no height and bulk adjustments, no additional affordable housing money -- nothing more than what Budget and Finance already got. Which isn't enough.

Oh, and by the way: Everyone here already knows that I oppose this project because it's too much housing for rich people, which we don't need in this city, and puts the city's housing balance further out of whack. But if we're going to sell off the waterfront for all the wrong reasons, we should at least get the best deal we can.


The negotiations for things like this tend to very thorough and there is always a tipping point. Try and extract too much and the developers walk away. Give too little and you feel cheated afterwards.

11 million is a huge chunk of change and given there is zero cost to the city, it's better to take a bird in the hand than double down and lose it all.

As for the height, it has to have a certain critical mass to be viable and, at the structure is really not high rise considering it is almost next to the Gateway Tower and the Embarcadero towers.

I'm comfortable with the overall project and expect it to go through. Your dislike of the successful notwithstanding, most voters can see the value of having these people spending their money here rather than elsewhere.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

It's getting much better, is what I believe you meant to say, Tim.

Posted by Chromefields on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

Hopefully the tide is turning and more housing of all kinds will be built throughout the city.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

Seriously WTF is the point with all the discussion about height and bulk. Do you all sit up at night staring at rulers and worrying about shadows?
These buildings are right next to much taller towers. It really just looks like you want to knock down the developers profits and could give 2 cents about how tall the thing is.

What is the obsession with developers profit about? I'd venture to say that you'd be happy if you could just make sure you could control the profit the developer makes - whatever the outcome.

Posted by Coitthroat on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

But Tim is right - more would be better. If the city is going to be run like a smart business then it should act like a shrewd businessman and get more money out of the deal.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

about is vastly overstated. They may get 250 million for the units (i.e. 100 or so units at 2 million each) but that is the gross receipts not the profits.

Bu the time they have paid for the land, the city's fees, the building costs and the taxes, it's going to be a fraction of that.

11 million is one hell of a lot of money to get for just one building. Take it and be happy.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

The 11 million isn't a negotiated amount, it is what the law says they must provide if they don't otherwise create affordable housing. If you think that they should pay more then take it up with your supervisors about changing the law. Right now there is no provision to penalize them for building homes for rich people. Don't blame the developer for fulfilling their legal obligation.

Posted by Troll on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

affordable housing setaside rule for new build if Tim then thinks we should ignore it and instead "shake down" any builder anyway.

So it is Tim who should argue to change the law if he isn't happy with 11 million. Then again, Tim doesn't think any profit should be made on this or any other deal - he wants the city to build housing. Like that worked so well with the projects.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

they want to build a taller building than the law allows, for example.
so if you want the current law to stand, 8 washington should be redesigned.

Posted by Tony Kelly on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 1:50 pm
Posted by Troll II on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

There are citywide concerns operative here, clearly.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

It's just an apartment building, of which we have tens of thousands in the city.

Once it's built, nobody will give a second thought to it.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 2:13 pm

Which I know you're just so enamored with lately ;-)

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 3:46 pm

I thought he claims that non-profits have betrayed the great cause?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

That was a serious comment. Marcos has come around to the idea that Non Profit Inc is destroying the progressive movement from within.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

I suspected as much since 2000. It is clear now that the two institutions run interference for the Democrat Party against popular movements in contrast to how certain elements of the Republican party elites actively stoke their grassroots bases.

The bankruptcy of that coalition is evident from San Francisco to Wisconsin.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

Arguing about technicalities should not undermine the material substance of our laws.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

I would venture to say that 75-80% of the laws around what can be built to what height and bulk in high density areas of the city are completely ridiculous and anti development.

If they were in existence after 1906, SF would look like Carmel, CA instead of one of the most dense cities in the US.
Laws were put in during a particularly virulent anti building/manhattanization period, and remain to this day as a shining example of power to the people, except the people really dont know shi* about urbanism and really dont care about much more then their view and parking.

Posted by Coitthroat on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 2:46 pm

the argument that affordable housing does not exist here for no other reason other than SF's height limits. In an attempt to make SF appear to be "mediterrean" we are condemned to forever have expensive housing.

And of course most of the affordable housing advocates (Hestor, Welch, Redmond, Brugmann, Shaw, Daly) are already property owners and so in fact have a vested interest in high RE prices.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 2:58 pm

Nobody expected that the zoning code could correctly set the height of every building so provisions were set up for developers to request variances. The city is free to say no if they so choose.

Yes, the city could have asked for a community center or something in exchange for the variance. If they didn't get something then I would point to David Chiu and ask why.

Posted by Troll on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 3:13 pm

firstborns to have an extra 100 billionaires spreading it around in their backyard, maybe we should be grateful for a "mere" 11 million?

We're supposed to be liberal and tolerant here. Extortion doesn't sit well with that high and mighty concept. Apparently Tim thinks diversity doesn't include the successful.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

per the article, the $11M is already $2M more than they were required to set aside for affordable housing (aka 20% over what is required).

Posted by DanO on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

Maybe not. Regardless - I expect the city to get the best deal possible as I expect the best deal possible when I negotiate with any entity. That is the essence of good business - getting the best deal for yourself. It's not the city's job to be giving away things for free or for less than the absolute maximum it can get.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

and that is what they are getting. End of.

Tim's loathing of the successful isn't an actionable paranoia.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

and business always goes beyond the "standard" to get what is best for itself and its shareholders. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the city to act in exactly the same manner.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

about what percentage of new untis should be affordable if the very same government that passed that laws then seeks to ignore it?

So, sure, the city can ask for more. They just can't insist on more. The deal as stated is fair.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 2:37 pm

Within which much is up to interpretation. We saw that with the mortgage loan crisis. Technically many banks weren't breaking the law - just "bending" it slightly. The city should do the same. At all times - think like a business, meaning get the most from those with whom it DOES business.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

the laws than it's OK for everyone to do that?

Hey, but my brother also did that, so I should get a pass.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

Businesses should be careful what they ask for. If they want government to act as ruthless as a business - especially when doing business with other businesses - they may get A LOT more than they bargained for.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

So it's never a surprise when they get outplayed - public opinion doesn't like any entity that consumes without giving back.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 3:37 pm