Waterfront War Turns Weird: Former PG&E Exec Claims Prop. B Opens "Environmental Loopholes"

Categories: Politics
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Shots fired in this war...
San Francisco voters tend to be San Francisco something-elses come off-season, municipal elections. We have just such an election coming up on June 3 and, if history is a precedent, perhaps fewer than one in four members of the electorate will bother to cast a ballot. 

This year's election is highlighted by two contentious issues: The primary in the David vs. David Assembly battle and the ongoing War of the Waterfront

A good deal of money and vitriol has been poured into both of these conflicts. The latter took a step into odd territory of late, however, with a campaign video featuring a "community advocate" claiming Proposition B would "open up loopholes developers can use to avoid environmental regulations.

That's an interesting argument. Also interesting: Prop. B is staunchly backed by the Sierra Club. The "community advocate" in this broadside against it is a longtime executive with PG&E and an energy industry consultant. 

Our messages for Bruce Agid, the managing director for business development at Energy Experts, International have not yet been returned. But a quick perusal of his online C.V. reveals he's made a career at Pacific Gas & Electric and other consulting gigs in the energy industry.

Well, there's no shame working for energy companies or being an energy industry consultant. But it is a bit different than labeling oneself a "community advocate." It's also a handicap when one is arguing environmentalism with the Sierra Club.  

Prop. B would require a vote of the people for any development that exceeds existing height limits along the waterfront. At least on paper, it's a very straightforward measure. But, its opponents argue, it could open up a Pandora's Box of environmental maladies. 

Agid hasn't yet returned our call to explain how this could open loopholes enabling environmental degradation. But Mike Theriault, the president of the San Francisco Building & Construction Trades Council, has advanced the same contention

Part of his argument relies on domino theory: If San Francisco voters wrest away decisions normally entrusted to state bodies, "voters in conservative counties might decide, say, to fill present tidelands for commercial development and an improved tax base." 

Locally, Theriault argues, developers could sneak environmental end-arounds into a ballot measure. That's potentially so. But developers could do that whether or not Prop. B passes. And, for a builder who's argued, again and again, that the city needs to build, build, build, and build some more and do it now, now, now -- Theriault's sudden concern for the California Environmental Quality Act is a bit rich. 

In any event, there's an election on June 3. Try to participate. Some people seem to think it's kind of important. 

My Voice Nation Help

Sorry we didn't have time to connect today. I was about to give you a call and saw that you had already posted your article.

With that said, I'm a volunteer who did a video. If you think where I worked three years ago is important - so be it. But when it comes to the environmental loopholes - it isn't just me or labor that makes this point. Take a look at the SPUR analysis {http://www.spur.org/sites/default/files/publications_pdfs/SPUR_June_Voter_Guide.pdf} and the city analysis {http://www.sf-planning.org/index.aspx?recordid=250&page=2719}. They both reach the same conclusion - if you go to the ballot you can end run CEQA. Hope you can clarify this in your piece or at least post a link to these sites. Much appreciated.

One last item, I volunteer about 20 hours a week to community advocacy efforts, so I do consider myself a Community Advocate.


Bruce Agid


Aren't we supposed to strive to live in compact urban developments that shorten our commutes, reducing vehicle miles traveled? Yes and that's better for the environment.  Cities are one of the greenest things we can do.  Prop B doesn't give voters the information they need to understand the impacts that a development has on the environment because there will not have been an eviro review done before they vote.  If a developer puts the whole or substantial part of the project on the ballot - then what they put - if it passes is no longer subject to environmental review.  Prop B is a mistake.  It doesn't tell you if 90 feet, 120 feet, or 40 feet is better for SF.  Does a 90 foot tall building vs 120' tall building  get us better views if its wider?  Does it give us the affordable housing we need? Does it integrate with transit? Does it provide developer dollars for parks and open space? - Prop B doesn't help the voters understand that. That's I think the details behind the video

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