SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The State Lands Commission has filed a lawsuit challenging San Francisco’s voter-approved limit on high-rise buildings along the waterfront, Proposition B.
The agency is made up of former San Francisco mayor and current Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, State Controller John Chiang and State Director of Finance Michael Cohen, a cabinet level officer appointed by Governor Jerry Brown. According to the State Land Commission’s mission statement, it “serves the people of California by providing stewardship of the lands, waterways, and resources entrusted to its care through economic development, protection, preservation, and restoration.”
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday and it argues that Prop B should be invalidated because the state has the ultimate oversight authority over the waterfront property. “The legislature has specifically delegated the management, responsibilities and obligations for those state public trust lands to the San Francisco Port Commission,” said State Lands Commission Executive Officer Jennifer Lucchesi.
But San Francisco Attorney Dennis Herrera is vowing to aggressively defend Prop B in court, issuing the following statement: “For decades, land use decisions involving San Francisco’s waterfront have included voters, elected leaders and appointed members of our Planning and Port Commissions. It’s a participatory process that enacted a comprehensive Waterfront Land Use Plan in 1990, developed a showplace ballpark for the Giants, and continues to protect an urban waterfront that is the envy of cities worldwide. San Francisco’s deliberative decision- making process on waterfront land use has never been successfully challenged, and I intend to defend it aggressively. With today’s lawsuit, the State Lands Commission seems to have embraced the notion that any local initiative-and, by extension, any land use regulation approved by a Board of Supervisors or Planning Commission-affecting port property is barred by state law, and therefore invalid. That view represents a radical departure in law and practice from land use decision-making in San Francisco and elsewhere. While the City must certainly honor its obligations as trustee in managing public trust property, it is a legally and practically untenable position to argue that San Francisco’s voters and elected officials have no direct say over how our city’s waterfront is developed.”
Jon Golinger with the No Wall on the Waterfront coalition, a group that led the fight for Proposition B, blasted the lawsuit and commended Herrera’s decision to fight it. “This lawsuit is an attempt by a renegade state agency to radically rollback the rights of San Francisco voters and their elected representatives to have any say at all over what happens on our waterfront. We applaud the City Attorney for announcing he will vigorously defend the will of the voters and have full confidence the people will prevail,” he said.
Proposition B was approved by San Francisco voters in the June 3 primary election. It requires voter approval for any developments along the San Francisco waterfront that exceeds current height limits, between Fisherman’s Wharf and Hunters Point.