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Voters may not have final say when it comes to development

People in the construction industry may have heard about an interesting development in the controversial San Francisco waterfront development case. In June of 2014, a ballot initiative known as Proposition B gave San Francisco citizens the authority to vote on the allowable height of any and all proposed waterfront developments on land managed by the Port of San Francisco. This measure basically gave the voters the right to decide what and how projects would be built in this area.

The California Lands Commission filed suit shortly thereafter, claiming that the state’s interests in creating suitable waterfront developments were unreasonably burdened by giving voters the final say on whether construction projects could proceed. Last month a Superior Court Judge ruled that the lawsuit could continue, but the Commission essentially must show how the state’s interests would be unduly compromised by giving voters this power.

This is an interesting case that could have remarkable ramifications for the rest of the state, especially in areas of high historical, cultural or economic interest.

In the construction business, progress and development is absolutely essential for success and unnecessarily burdensome regulations can be a major problem. If every construction project ultimately came down to the vote of the people, it is very unlikely that many developers and construction firms would bother putting the time and money into these developments.

While it is probably unlikely that voter referendums will become the norm for your average construction project, people in the construction industry should still be alarmed at the potential delays and burdens caused by the bureaucratic process envisioned by San Francisco’s Proposition B. On the other hand, voters should have the right to protect public lands from intrusive developments that compromise the beauty or integrity of a cityscape. But exactly how this process would have the desired effect is still yet to be seen, as is the outcome of this pivotal case.

Source: San Francisco Appeal, “Judge Partially Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Voter Approval Of Waterfront Development,” March 26, 2015