Newsom’s agency keeps trying to tell voters they have no say on waterfront

Lands Commission says SF is losing money at the Port -- but can present no clear evidence at all

The State Lands Commission continued to make its case in court Tuesday to overturn Proposition B, which requires voter approval for new construction projects on the San Francisco waterfront that exceed existing height limits. The trial, which started last week, was filed immediately after Prop. B was passed in 2014 by the commission, on which Lt. Gov. Gavin Newson sits.      

Deputy Attorney General Joel Jacobs confers with expert witness Karen Weymann outside the courtroom on Tuesday morning

The state’s argument at trial seems to be that the Port has lost money because of Prop. B, as demonstrated through expert witnesses who analyzed the two waterfront developments, Pier 70 and Mission Rock, that the voters have approved since Prop. B was passed. The state also pointed out that the Port is far from flush with cash and could benefit from additional funds. In particular, urgently needed repairs to the Seawall may cost as much as $2-$5 billion, for which funding has not yet been identified.

But Deputy City Attorney Christine Van Aken, representing San Francisco at trial, demonstrated through several witnesses that financial term sheets, which were used to estimate a project’s value pre-Prop. B, are non-binding documents and frequently change as a project progresses. They are not a guarantee of projected income, several witnesses testified.

Van Aken told 48 Hills that project proposals routinely undergo many changes for a number of reasons which can be difficult to attribute to any one cause.  “No one in the trial was able to isolate it and say, ‘I did a deep dive, and identified that after Prop. B, the cost or benefit was XYZ dollars,’” she said. “No one has said that.”

Reached for comment Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the State Lands Commission had difficulty articulating their argument for overturning Prop. B. Asked if maximizing revenue was the most important factor to consider when evaluating waterfront proposals, Sheri Pemberton, chief of external affairs, said that was not the commission’s position.  

“I couldn’t speculate about the arguments presented in court, but I can tell you the issue at hand which prompted the commission to pursue litigation,” she said. “The principle the commission is trying to uphold with the litigation is the statewide interest, and the right to have access to these public trust lands.”

But Pemberton couldn’t cite examples of how Prop. B conflicts with that principle and said those answers could be found in the legal briefs the state has filed in court. “There’s a lot of complexities associated with the litigation,” she said. “It’s all explained in those documents, and being litigated at this time.”

The Attorney General’s office, which is representing the Lands Commission in court, was not able to provide someone to comment about the trial.

Regarding the two waterfront projects voters approved since Prop. B’s adoption, Van Aken said, “There can’t be any question, I think, that these projects will benefit the public trust.”

“The State Lands Commission is saying that Prop. B is invalid in each and every application,” said Van Aken. “Given that Prop. B has resulted in quick and certain approval process for these two projects, and that there was resounding community consensus behind them, I don’t see how you can say that each application of Prop. B is incompatible with the trust. The State Lands Commission doesn’t have any examples of how it’s not.  Their case is based on ‘what if,’ ‘what if,’ ‘what if…’”

All testimony in the trial is expected to conclude on Wednesday, and closing arguments may be heard as early as Wednesday afternoon.



  1. If you recall (which I know is a big leap, considering your total lack of brain cells) Caitlin wrote an entire piece on your disgusting misogynistic remarks towards her. Since all issues of the SFBG are chronicled online, why don’t you avail yourself of that resource and pull out the piece? It’s not exactly a secret that you’re part of the female abusing sect of ancient white male progressives in SF.

  2. And, Snaps,

    What I recall of Caitlin was defending myself against a couple of months of ignorant and deeply personal attacks. It went on and on for weeks as I recall.

    Do you have a link to Caitlin’s article and the ensuing chatter?

    I’d love to read it again.

    I rather enjoyed all the attention to my views on issues and candidates which is what I mostly used the opportunity for even as I do here.

    Go Giants!

    Where are those links, Snaps?



  3. And this, in Oceanside:

    “Newsom started interceding on behalf of a developer in the city of Oceanside. The developer was a past big contributor to Newsom and presumably would be so again in the future. Newsom essentially threatened a liberal Democratic councilwoman, Esther Sanchez and two appointed members of the city’s planning commission that they better start playing nice with this developer who was trying to build a massive project in the city’s downtown near the pier. The problem was that the city has an affordable housing element for all new projects over a certain size in this downtown redevelopment district. The law was written by Sanchez and she pushed hard over many years to get it passed and implemented. The builder wanted the city to wave the affordable unit criteria by some 75% while still receiving city redevelopment money to subsidize the construction. The developer said it would be unprofitable for him to proceed without this concession. The councilwoman, mayor and members of the city’s planning commission refused to back down and allow the city to be extorted like this as the developer knew plain well what the law was that governed construction on the site before he bought the options to purchase the land. Additionally there were other developers waiting in the wings to pick up the option on this valuable parcel and meet the city’s criteria if the original developer were to back out. Nevertheless it was made very clear via third parties that if Newsom’s favorite developer (read contributor) didn’t get his way by having the city back down, Newsom was prepared to start pulling strings at the California Coastal Commission in an attempt to thwart future development on the site if the original developer wasn’t given a pass.”

    Does using a State agency to thwart the will of voters or their elected representatives sound familiar? Newsom may be good on a few important social issues. But his is a dirty politician. I’ve never voted for a Republican in my life, but if it comes down to Newsom and a moderate, more transparent and honest Republican, I will be struggling with my decision.

  4. We need to have a broader look and Newsom – it isn’t just San Francisco. Clearly he is in the pocket of any developer who pays him donates money to his campaign. This from an acquaintance:

    “Here in San Diego, Irwin Jacobs (founder of Qualcom), has been trying to push through a plan that would trash the Cabrillo Bridge, Alcazar Garden, Palm Canyon and other historical and architectural features in the heart of Balboa Park. Jacobs (who btw is now trying to buy his granddaughter a congressional seat, the one Issa will be vacating) is a big contributor to Newsom. Newsom who has absolutely no connection to San Diego threatened the then head of the state’s historic preservation office, Wayne Donaldson, that he better get on board and stop opposing the plan or else. This ironically happened less than 48 hours after Newsom came to town and publicly answered questions from reporters one of which indicated he had absolutely no idea that there were plans in the works for Balboa Park much less what they consisted of. Clearly Newsom later got his marching orders from Jacobs and then started applying pressure to Donaldson on behalf of Jacobs’ pet project.”

  5. Didn’t you leave, like 5 years ago – right after you were exposed for the misogynist pig you are by harassing Caitlin? She wrote a whole piece about it on the SFBG.

  6. Well,

    You’d certainly think that if there were some kind of news system where word of Gavin’s betrayal of San Francisco voters could be spread that this would be the end of any plurality he may have had with SF voters.

    What the 1% have done with the Port and with Treasure Island and the Ship Yard is what Dick Nixon’s people used to call, ‘benign neglect’.

    What’s that mean?

    It means that we appreciate the value of this property but we want to hand it over to our masters for as close to nothing (preferably, for nothing and with a state subsidy to go to your buddies along with a hundred year lease) …

    So, they don’t maintain the properties. Which, I should add, include all of the public housing projects built in SF over the last half century.


    They say stuff like Newsom is saying …

    “These local people and agencies don’t know how to handle this property properly!
    Why look at the disrepair it is in!”

    Let’s bring in Dick Blum’s Tuto-Perini to screw us like they did on the BART construction and now, Rose Pak’s subway and on and on.

    You’d think a guy would never get tired of getting screwed but to be honest it is getting a little tiresome to me.

    Go Giants!

    Down with Mark Colwell and Redfin Realty for evicting my fellow seniors!!


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