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ElectionsCampaign TrailIn mayoral race preview, supes reject Breed veto of Peskin zoning bill

In mayoral race preview, supes reject Breed veto of Peskin zoning bill

Mayor's move was all politics, not policy, most board members agree.

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In what could be a preview of the upcoming mayor’s race, the Board of Supes Tuesday overrode Mayor London Breed’s veto and approved very limited protections for the Jackson Square Historic District.

The legislation, by Sup. Aaron Peskin, is limited: The area in question is only 20 square blocks, and only a small number of sites in that area are even eligible for development.

It would prevent height limits for that area to increase to 270 feet, similar to the downtown core.

“This has been badly misrepresented in the local media,” Peskin said, pointing out that the measure doesn’t conflict with the Housing Element, had the support of all seven members of the Planning Commission, and that both the current and former planning directors were in favor.

Peskin called Breed’s action ‘depressing and unprofessional.’ Photo by Ebbe Roe Yovino-Smith

And yet, Breed (and her ally State Sen. Scott Wiener) have denounced the measure, saying that it’s “anti-housing.”

Peskin quoted former Planning Director John Rahaim, who has never been against any sort of development, saying that “this does not prevent housing.”

It might prevent a few exceptionally high-end luxury highrises, and reflects, as Sup. Rafael Mandelman said, “our desire not to see the Fontana Towers replicated all along the waterfront.”

Even Sup. Catherine Stefani, the most conservative member of the board, voted in favor of the Peskin bill. Most of the area in question, she said “is already protected” by historic preservation rules.

Peskin followed the city’s normal procedures, and brought his proposal to the Planning Commission, which studied it and decided, with the concurrence of the mayor’s planning director and all four mayoral appointees to the commission, that it made perfect sense and would have no significant impact on future housing development.

So: the politics. The mayor’s veto was all about politics.

Sup. Ahsha Safai, who is challenging Breed, was pretty direct: “I’m perplexed by so much misinformation,” he said. “The mayor’s veto highlights the inconsistencies in her policies.”

He noted: “We need to be building housing for working families, not just tall expensive condos for the wealthy.”

That’s going to be a talking point for Safai during the campaign, and a signal of his efforts to try to go after progressive voters.

Peskin, who is widely reported to be considering entering the race, also challenged Breed: Generally, he said, when a mayor plans to veto a measure, the executive office reaches out to the legislator to at least discuss the matter, but that didn’t happen here: “This is depressing and unprofessional,” he said.

“The city planning representative of this mayor makes a recommendation, and we follow that, and we get a veto, this is rewarding bad behavior. This is not a policy discussion but a political one.”

Mandelman: “I am frustrated by this fight over this little legislation. It is all politics and no policy.”

Yes: Breed wants to paint Peskin and the supes as anti-housing, because that attracts big money, and the mayor’s campaign staff thinks it’s a winning issue.

The supes, who will now face even more attacks, voted 8-3 to override the veto, with only Sups. Matt Dorsey, Joel Engardio, and Myrna Melgar oppposed.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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