Shaping the Waterfront’s Future, CA Democrat Convention, Upcoming Soiree

Rafael Mandelman

Rafael Mandelman

The San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee handed the developers a big win on March 12 when the Committee narrowly voted to oppose Proposition B on the June ballot. Conceived by the same folks who managed to stop the 8 Washington project in last November’s election, Prop B would require any developer seeking to raise height limits on the waterfront to submit their proposed project for a vote of the people.

With the future of the waterfront at stake and three significant projects potentially immediately affected – the Warriors development at Piers 30-32, a Forest City mixed-use project at Pier 70, and a 3.6 million square foot mixed-use mega-project proposed by the Giants for Sea Wall Lot 337 near the ballpark – dozens of people turned out to speak in public comment on either side of the measure. Interestingly, both the Warriors and Forest City have officially pledged to stay neutral on Prop B, which strikes me as a wise move, but the Giants are pulling out all the stops to kill it.

Regular readers of this column will not be surprised to learn that I voted with the minority in favor of Prop B. Time will tell whether the opposition of the local Democratic Party will be fatal to campaign, but I tend to think not. The vote on 8 Washington made it clear that the voters don’t trust developers, nor at the moment do they trust City Hall to adequately protect the public interest from developers. Those sentiments seem as strong now as they were in November, maybe stronger. And the underlying principal behind Proposition B – that the voters should have a say before the City lifts long-established waterfront height limits to benefit particular developers – seems unassailable.

Ironically, the local Democratic Party came out in opposition to Prop B on the very same day that the Chronicle reported that California’s Chief Democrat – State Party Chair and living legend John Burton – would be supporting it. Always good for a memorable quote, Burton explained: “I’m the guy who passed the original bill back in the 60s that turned the port over to the city, and it was never our intention to turn the waterfront into a goddamn real estate development.”

The DCCC also took positions on two other less controversial items on the June ballot, supporting Proposition A, which would authorize $400,000,000 in bonds to earthquake-proof various public facilities and endorsing Daniel Flores for a vacant spot on the San Francisco Superior Court.

Meanwhile, in other Party news, California Democrats held our annual convention in Los Angeles over the weekend of March 7-9. As this is an election year, there were endorsement battles to be waged, with the two most competitive and hardest fought contests – the State Controller race between Assembly Speaker John Perez and Board of Equalization Member Betty Yee and the Secretary of State race between State Senators Alex Padilla of Los Angeles and Leland Yee of San Francisco – ending in no endorsement. These “no endorsements” represented significant victories for the two Yees, as Padilla and Perez hail from the more populous southern part of the State, had pushed hard in the weeks leading up to the convention and went in to the weekend favored to win.

One queer highlight: Houston’s out lesbian mayor, Annise Parker, wowed and charmed the convention hall with a speech calling on the delegates to expand the reach of the Democratic Party even in seemingly unlikely places. Serving out her third and final term as mayor, we can only hope that Parker will find her next step up; I’m told she is looking at a statewide office. And how cool would that be? In Texas, no less?!

Finally, I hope to see you all, each and every one, at the LGBT Center’s Soiree on April 5 at City View at the Metreon.  Get your tickets today!

Rafael Mandelman was elected to the San Francisco Community College Board of Trustees in 2012. He is a partner at Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP.