Whoops, not going to happen


By Tim Redmond

The overwhelming rejection of the 8 Washington condo project at the polls in November left developer Simon Snellgrove with no choice but to go back to the drawing board and see if there’s another building he wants to try at the site. But even that will be more difficult now that a San Francisco judge has ruled that the land deal giving Snellgrove rights to a critical part of the project site is invalid.

Judge A. James Robertson II ruled Jan. 17 that the State Lands Commission had no right to turn that piece of public property, which is regulated under tidelands trust laws, over to the developer without an adequate environmental impact report. That means the land, which comprised much of the project site, now reverts to the Port of San Francisco.

If the Port, which has been trying to find a developer to build on that land since at least 2008, wants to move forward, an adequate environmental review would have to come first – and that review would have to analyze the impacts of the proposed project as well as alternatives, Susan Brandt Hawley, the attorney representing Defend our Waterfront, told me.

The Commission had argued that the deal was exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act because it was a simple matter of “settling title and boundary issues.” But the judge made it clear in his ruling that there were no such issues, that this was a land transfer, and that it was done illegally without proper review.

So if Snellgrove, who still has exclusive negotiating rights for the land, wants to do anything at all – even a much smaller project that conforms to local zoning and height limits – he will have to start the whole process over again.

And you have to wonder: How long are his investors, including the California state teacher’s pension fund, going to continue to pour money down this rathole?