PropertyProf Blog

Editor: Stephen Clowney
Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Friday, February 7, 2014

Ballot Box Zoning in San Francisco


For those interested in land use and direct democracy, here's an interesting development out of San Francisco:

Activists on Monday turned in more than double the number of signatures needed to qualify a measure for the June 3 ballot that would require voter approval for any development on the San Francisco waterfront to exceed existing height limits. If passed, the measure would put a check on high-rise hotels and condo towers along the bay and require voter approval for height increases for three major waterfront development plans: the Golden State Warriors' proposal for an 18,000-seat arena complex, the San Francisco Giants' plan for an urban neighborhood on what is their main parking lot, and the development of the industrial Pier 70 area.

But the plan might not be legal:

If it qualifies for the ballot, the height-limit measure could face a legal challenge from developers or their surrogates.  The top lawyer for the State Lands Commission, the agency responsible for regulating use of waterfront and other state property, in January questioned the legality of the proposed measure as an infringement on state authority.  A separate legal analysis provided by the law firm Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, which specializes in election law, contends the ballot measure is "fatally flawed" and runs afoul of both state and local law.

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