State Lands lawsuit targets waterfront height limits

The State Lands Commission this week filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the city’s SF’s voter-approved limits on waterfront high-rise buildings. The argument is that the land belongs not to the city and its voters, but rather to the state and are managed by the Port Commission.

Papers filed in San Francisco Superior Court claim that Proposition B “targets state-owned tide and submerged lands over which the Legislature has expressly precluded the right of local initiative.” The proposition requires voter approval for any shoreline development that is in excess of current height limits. In addition, the papers say that the proposition’s development curbs would take revenue away from the Port Commission – money that they say is very necessary.

The proposition passed with a 59 percent majority on June 3. It was sponsored by the Sierra Club’s San Francisco chapter as well as a group of other limited-growth supporters. It was opposed – as may be expected – by developers who filed suit in February to take the measure off the ballot. In March, Superior Court Judge Marla Miller said that the vote could proceed due to her opinion that the developers had not clearly shown any invalidity on the part of the proposition.

However, that suit is still alive and well – and may be rolled into the new state lawsuit. While the San Francisco Giants helped fund the February suit, however, they have now pulled back their support. The ballteam is planning its own high-rise neighborhood in a current parking lot near AT&T Park.

The Lands Commission is comprised of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Controller John Chiang and State Finance Director Michael Cohen. City Attorney Dennis Herrera told the Chronicle on Tuesday that their suit is “a radical departure in law and practice from land-use decision-making in San Francisco and elsewhere.”

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