Wiener’s resolution to study waterfront initiative written by its opponents


Developers and activists are once again at odds over San Francisco’s waterfront, arguably the most valuable bit of land in one of America’s most expensive cities. Ahead of a June ballot initiative that would require voter approval for proposed waterfront buildings that exceed current height limits, development groups are already reaching out to politicians to tip the scales in their favor.

E-mail and text exchanges obtained by initiative proponent Jon Golinger via a public records request show that Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of SPUR; and Jack Bair, senior vice president and general counsel for the San Francisco Giants, urged Sup. Scott Wiener to use his authority to direct city agencies to report on the Waterfront initiative. Wiener introduced a resolution calling for this report, which will be considered at tomorrow’s [Tues/25] Board of Supervisors meeting.

City law normally prohibits the use of public resources for political activity that could sway the results of an election.

“There’s a law that once a petition qualifies for the ballot, there’s a very bright line that separates government resources from being used [to defend or oppose it],” explained Golinger, who is managing the campaign for the Waterfront initiative. “These emails demonstrate that there are more political maneuvers than genuine intent to inform the public.”

A representative from the City Attorney’s Office declined to comment, but a memo issued last September by that office clarified that municipal resources can be used to objectively investigate and evaluate the impact of a ballot measure, but not to take a position on it.

Wiener denied that there was anything improper about requesting a report in response to concerns raised by Bair and Metcalf. “[The proponents] have been very reckless in their accusations,” he said. “First they said it was illegal, but we pointed out that there’s a provision that allows this. They backed off, and now they’re making another frivolous accusation that although it is legal for me to introduce the resolution, it’s inappropriate for me to talk with anyone who has an opinion on it.”

But e-mail records show that the study was initially requested by Metcalf, and that the first draft of the resolution was written by SPUR. Wiener later presented that resolution to the Board of Supervisors, asking seven city agencies -- including the Port of San Francisco, the Planning Department, and the Mayor’s Office of Housing -- to produce reports on the impact the ballot initiative would have if passed.

The purpose of the reports, according to a press release issued by Wiener’s office, is to provide an “impartial analysis” so that the public can make an informed decision at the ballot box.

Activists doubt that impartiality, but Wiener says that their claims are “completely baseless.”

“First of all, the only thing this resolution does is direct city departments to provide an objective analysis on the possible impact of the ballot measure,” Wiener told the Guardian. “I find it bizarre that these folks are fighting so tooth and nail to fight more information for voters.”

Metcalf of SPUR, a research and advocacy group with a pro-development stance, also maintains that there is nothing dishonest about the exchanges. The job of lobbyists is to reach out to politicians, he says.

“Every group in the city that’s trying to influence public policy has to talk to supervisors just like this,” Metcalf said. “I’ve worked with this resolution to make the public debate more sophisticated, so people can think before making a decision.”

Metcalf told the Guardian that while the organization’s ballot analysis committee has already recommended a “no” vote on the measure, SPUR does not have an official position until the board of directors votes at its March meeting.

Bair of the Giants did not respond to a phone call from the Bay Guardian. The Giants have a vested interest in seeing the measure go down at the polls, given the massive development project that the team is proposing at Pier 48.

There are two problems with the resolution, said Golinger. First, he believes the advocacy by opponents means city resources would be used for a political campaign. The seven city departments in question would be taking time away from their normal duties to write a report catering to the campaign opposition, he said.

The second problem is that since the resolution was essentially written by SPUR -- which is already leaning toward opposing the measure -- it would frame the way that the reports would be written.

The resolution “was crafted by opponents to get a preordained result,” Golinger said. “It asks skewed instead of open-ended questions, and they are designed to push and shape the analyses in a frank way.”

Nevertheless, Wiener maintains that he has done nothing wrong.

“It’s perfectly okay for me as an elected official to work with whoever I choose to work with,” he said. “I work with all sorts of different people on all kinds of different topics. That’s what democracy is about. I don’t sit in a cloistered room, I’m out there getting ideas from people. It’s a sad state of affairs that in 2014 you can be attacked for having the gall to actually talk to people.”


When 60% of Wiener's political contributions came from real estate interests, it shouldn't surprise anyone that he's bending over for them like a two-bit whore.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 7:19 pm

Real estate interests build housing. Housing activists on the other hand build nothing and only try and steal housing from the legal owners.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 8:59 am

They have no interest in creating wealth - only in redistributing it according to their hierarchical view of how worthy different classes of people are.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 9:05 am

They will not be happy until we are like Cuba, where there is no wealth to re-distribute, or housing either.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 10:53 am

This is not the first time Scott Wiener has shown his disgust for the voters and the people of San Francisco.
Wiener also attempted to silence the voices of SF taxpayers with a law allowing him to overturn laws passed by San Francisco voters:

Scott Wiener doesn’t want to carry out the wishes of the voters, he wants to tell you what to do.:
Don't drink sodas!
Put on your clothes!
Stay out of public parks at night!
He's like some sort of insane schoolmarm on crack, who wants to make more and more rules for ordinary people like you, but when it comes to big money and developers, Scott Wiener wants LESS rules.
Scott Wiener is an authoritarian loser and servant for the 1% who should be thrown out and replaced by someone who will LISTEN to the voters, rather than attempt to silence us.

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Posted by Purchase HP Laserjet Pro 400 on Jul. 09, 2014 @ 10:08 am

SPUR is a developer lobbyist nonprofit that got hefty corporate welfare from the federal government to build its glitzy headquarters, not a research and advocacy group. They get paid by developers, their architects, attorneys and contractors to provide propaganda to lower the barriers to drumming up business.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 7:39 pm

an entity that talks to all sides is more likely to get things done than some ideolog who is unable to compromise

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 7:51 am

It's a dynamic organization always coming up with new and creative ways to make money for developers and fleece taxpayers.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 8:50 am

You knew that, right?

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Posted by on Jul. 08, 2014 @ 11:06 am

legislation like this - who the fuck does this corporate drone think he is?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 8:25 pm

The way the left tries to get over in SF there is no reason to believe anything they put forth. The way they go into overblown hysterics when they don't get their way and try to manipulate the process to their advantage makes them a questionable source for news and opinion.

Perhaps Weiner is doing the work of developers, while it's a good thing for Avalos and Campos to be openly owned by the SEIU. There is a credibility gab with the progressive establishment oriented media and those they act as shills for.

As this remains a "he said she said" story, and the medium is so untrustworthy, hard to have an opinion.

Posted by guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 8:27 pm

If you have reasons to think the author of this piece has his facts wrong or possibly wrong, lay them out instead of trying to imply it's not an honest article. The only one being dishonest here is you.

If you think it's fine for SF govt agencies to issue reports on the impact of the initiative to satisfy the opponents of this initiative request, then just be honest and say you think that's good and fine.

But it's chickenshit on your part to try to discredit the BG because they are reporting the facts and trying to do real reporting (if you don't think they are, then state where they aren't - either put or shut up with the false accusations).

You don't want real reporting. What you want is the BG and other media to be biased in your favor and you whine about the BG when they won't but instead do good reporting that presents the facts - facts that you feel don't favor your side.

This article is very fair to Weiner, quoting him often in the article (as well as (pro-developer) SPUR's Gabriel Metcalf) so he (and his pro-developer allies) more than gets his arguments stated.

Good article Mr. McMahon - thx for informing me on what's going on about this initiative and who's doing what behind the scenes.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 9:23 pm

You probably scoff at FOX news while thinking the Bay Guardian is OK?

When the proper answer is they both are suspect.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

FOX News. Albeit on a vastly reduced scale.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 12:46 pm

In this instance I don't think that it is a matter of the SFBG getting the facts wrong (although they certainly have done that in spades recently).

But the issue is a big nothing. So some advocates and Weiner want city departments to provide more information on an important initiative. Wow. Another Watergate.

Makes you wonder why the Golinger side feels that the voters having more information works against his side.

Come back when you have a story saying that public departments were asked to provide false data or to withhold certain facts.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2014 @ 10:08 pm

as well, while Wiener at least listens to all sides.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 7:52 am

Because they don't put anything of substance in the article that could be argued. It's all "he said she said", which creates the sense of controversy. A little journalism would be appreciated. Here... here's the relevant bits of the actual proposal that was "drafted by SPUR" to "frame the way the reports are written":

Resolution referring the initiative measure known as the “Waterfront Height Limit Right to Vote Initiative,” to [agencies] to report on the measure’s potential impacts, if passed, on the City’s future housing (including affordable housing), infrastructure, transportation, and open space needs, as well as the City's tax base.

Be it FURTHER RESOLVED, That the reports prepared in response to this Resolution shall include only objective, impartial information and analysis, shall not recommend changes to the Initiative, and shall not make a recommendation as to whether the voters should adopt the Initiative.

SFBG -- The Fox News of SF.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 7:19 am

Lets discuss how impartial Jon Gollinger is:
100% funded by Richard and Barbara Stewart - the same NIMBY power couple that majority funded "no wall on the waterfront"
Operating under the direction of Aron Peskin.

What we have here is just the same double standard that has been accepted as gods truth for decades in SF anti development politics - If you are against development, you have no burden of proof. nobody will investigate where your money comes from. Nobody will check into what former power players are pulling the strings. Nobody will fact check your claims

If you are pro - or even neutral - regarding development in SF, then you're big business, chain store, pro gentrification, you carry the entire burden of truth.

Who the hell is Jon Gollinger? All of a sudden he carries enough name recognition to be quoted in every paper of mention in SF? You had better bet that Peskin is orchestrating this entire thing - calling in favors left and right.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 7:48 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 8:08 am

How is this a story?

And Jon Gollingers resolution was written by Glinda, the good witch?
Maybe the story should have been that Jon Gollinger, in partnership with Peskin, funded by Barbara Stewart is opposed to development on the waterfront.

File this one under, "No $hit sherlock"

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

It doesn't need to be a 'story'. It has an accusatory headline that could leave someone with the impression that Weiner did something inappropriate. End of 'story'.

This is the Bay Guardian. They create perceptions. Reality is someone else's problem.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 1:32 pm

around Steve Moss out of the Guardian four years ago. When over the top bias is a part of the advocacy journalism it turns into agitprop and only fellow true believers will fall for it.

Politicians at all levels ask various departments for information all of the time. Hos does this differ from past requests should be part of a follow up story.

Posted by guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 5:22 pm

Looks like Wiener is chipping Official Misconduct that could result in his removal form office and possibly professional misconduct that could cost him his law license.

The lawyer who makes the law but stands ignorant of the law using the power of the government to influence an election.

First they try to remove the measure from the ballot, now they try to get us to believe that the pro-development BANANA republic government--Build ANything ANywhere Always--would allow its departments to issue independent and objective reports!

Posted by marcos on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 7:53 pm

Anything. Quit revising what it means NIMBY.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 8:34 pm

You don't like it when someone reframes your propaganda devices out from under you and yokes them around your neck, do you?

Posted by marcos on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 9:21 pm

But because it is about Wiener, you make like it's a big deal. It isn't.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 26, 2014 @ 8:08 am


Posted by marcos on Feb. 26, 2014 @ 8:25 am

If you want to build, then pay, pay, pay. That's the message. It's extortion not bribery.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 26, 2014 @ 8:35 am

That's a familiar corporatist apologia, which some book which was being flogged hard on the winger website I frequent has been promoting incessantly.

Back in the day, Fremont Older tried to get the corporate bosses thrown in jail along with then-S.F. mayor Eugene Schmitz and his political boss crony Abraham Ruef.

The corporatists won out in the end, playing the "innocent victims" and serving as witnesses against the corrupt politicians, but corruption is a two-way street.


"The street railway company, for instance, wanted a privilege to convert a cable system into an overhead trolley against the protests of the citizens, who urged them to use the underground conduit system, and to pick up the trolley in the suburbs. They preferred to pay $200,000 in bribe money for the privileges.

"The telephone company paid a large bribe to keep out a rival, and the rival paid a large bribe to get in.

"The gas company paid a bribe to the supervisors to prevent them from carrying out their pledges to reduce the gas rate to 75 cents, and it was fixed at 85 cents.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 26, 2014 @ 9:49 am

If you want it built, someone has to make a buck. That's how the world goes around.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 26, 2014 @ 10:18 am

you must assume bonafide anti capitalists are few and far between.

so ;

"Real estate interests build housing..."

free market capitalism = real estate interests

(ergo, you're talking about finance capital.)


ipso facto the idea that "real estate interests" build housing is false.

Posted by Guestagainstcapitalists on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 8:46 pm
Posted by mostpeople(per se)areagainstwaterfrontdevelopment on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 8:48 pm

Who's the supervisor for the Waterfront area or does that not make any difference to people with an agenda? Isn't Jane Kim the supervisor for the Waterfront area? Why wasn't she contacted and urged to use her authority to direct city agencies to report on the Waterfront initiative? Why was busy-body Wiener contacted (again)? Why did he have to stick his nose in this? Why didn't he direct them to contact Ms Kim? The Waterfront is her district, not Wiener's.

We have 11 supervisors, but the only one I ever hear about is this guy who craves attention and the corporate media fawn over. Whatever happened to Mark Farrell? He's still on the board. Maybe Farrell is more psychologically well-adjusted and not nearly as needy and wanting for being the center of attention as Wiener is. Clearly, Wiener wants to run the entire city as Mr-I-Know-Best, or is he already doing so? One sort of gets that impression. Is he unofficially the mayor with Lee as his sidekick, giving orders to Lee? They both listen to and work for their conservative corporate owners, and only them.

Wiener said, “I work with all sorts of different people on all kinds of different topics..."

Wrong. You work for your conservative, wealthy base and ignore all others.

Posted by Miguel on Feb. 25, 2014 @ 10:30 pm

Or the other areas of the state, country and world that the city passes resolutions over?

Posted by guest on Feb. 26, 2014 @ 7:37 am

You're a provincial idiot. The supervisors represent the entire city as well as their district.

Posted by Becky Backside on Mar. 14, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

some people seem to think that their supervisor has individual decision-making power in their district,

Weird. District supervisors are merely a byproduct of a different voting system designed to give more socialist outcomes

Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2014 @ 12:54 pm

I just finished reading the brief by the opponents of the voter initiative that would enable the public to weigh in on any requests to increase building heights beyond current limits along the SF waterfront...and I wanted to share some insight.

The opponent petitioners are exercising their right to challenge the legality of the initiative itself. Their theme is that this initiative abuses the initiative process because waterfront land use decisions should never be left in the hands of the people, but in the purview of the experts. Their document cites current statutes and laws, 14 legal case precedents and includes their arguments, which interpret those laws and precedents. (You can find the documents pro and con on the website for No Wall on the Waterfront.)

I found one basis for the opponents' arguments pretty odd: They argue that decisions about SF waterfront land are not for the people, nor for the Planning Department, nor for the Board of Supervisors to make--but almost exclusively for the Port Commission, because the administer the land.

Democracy, anybody?

The opponents of the voter initiative go on to illustrate what they think of San Francisco residents in the following statement: "Permitting initiative proponents to go directly to the ballot would...subject complicated land use planning decisions to the uncertainty of the electoral process."

In my opinion a good reason for this initiative is that it's become clear the Planning Department and the Board of Supervisors and indeed the Port Commission can make and have made some mistakes. The 8 Washington project had so many things wrong with it that--after the vote last year that halted the project--the majority of members of the BoS admitted they made a mistake in giving it the green light. Everyone makes mistakes, and that's okay -- just admit a mistake when it happens.

My interest in land use stems a great deal from my living in the shadow of one of those mistakes. It's called the Fontana Towers. Great for the people who live there, an eyesore for everybody else!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2014 @ 10:14 am

That way you don't have to look at it.

Even so, it created more views than it took away.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2014 @ 11:29 am

An absolute abomination! An embarrassment to the city, and the great wall preventing views of the SF Bay. Ugh!

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