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Lawsuit Over Proposition B Takes Political Turn In San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The fight over development along the San Francisco waterfront is going to court with local residents who voted for Prop B getting support from a surprising place: Los Angeles.

In June of 2014, supporters of Proposition B promised local control of the waterfront, with commercials saying it would "balance the power of big developers" and give voters "a voice on whether height limits should be raised on our public piers and seawall lots."

Opponents argued those were details that shouldn't be left to voters

In the end, Prop B passed with 60 percent of the vote.

Assemblyman David Chiu was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at the time.

"All of us in San Francisco, we are all incredibly passionate about our waterfront and making sure our waterfront reflect who we are as a city," explained Chiu.

But now there's a problem.

The waterfront is technically state land, so the State Lands Commission is suing to stop Prop B. The trial started on Wednesday.

But the chairman of the State Lands Commission who voted to sue San Francisco is also a candidate for governor: former San Francisco Mayor and current Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom.

On Friday, rival gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villraigosa released a statement calling on Newsom to end the lawsuit.

"The State Lands Commission's legal argument that the people of San Francisco are too uneducated on ballot issues to make a decision about height limits is both elitist and condescending."

The statement added, '"I trust the voters of San Francisco's decision to protect their own waterfront."

It didn't take long before Newsom fired back.

"The legal dispute is pivotal to protecting public lands from being plundered by big developers and polluters," said Newsom in his statement. "And Antonio Villaraigosa has shown time and again that he's perfectly fine disregarding state environmental protections on behalf of big polluters," read Newsom's statement.

Former State Senator Mark Leno – who was a supporter of Propositon B – says negotiation with the locals is healthy.

"I think we it's a very brilliant concept," said Leno. "All you need to do is look at the projects at Pier 70 and Mission Rock. And because it was on port property, the projects had to be developed and designed to win voter approval and popular support."

According to the state of California, that's exactly the problem. When developers try to appeal to voters by including more affordable housing or lowering the height, those projects become less lucrative, which means less money for the state in the form of fees and taxes.

The question raised by the lawsuit is whether the appeals to voters subjugate the needs and the interests of the state.

The trial will continue next Tuesday.


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