Newsom’s Commission Drops Lawsuit Against S.F.

Both sides claim victory, and gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom is no longer bringing a lawsuit against his hometown.

Jessica Christian, SF Examiner

The curious case of Gavin Newsom suing the city where used to be mayor has come to a peaceful close. The California State Lands Commission, of which Newsom is the chairperson, has settled their lawsuit against the city of San Francisco over waterfront height limits imposed by the 2014 passage of Prop. B.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, “City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Wednesday that the State Lands Commission will drop its lawsuit.”

Prop. B limited shoreline developments to the “existing maximum height limit on the San Francisco waterfront.” Any projects taller than that limit would require voter approval. Newsom’s commission argued that they have jurisdiction over ports, and sued to have Prop. B invalidated.

While the case has been settled by both sides, San Francisco seems to have gotten the better end of the deal. The Prop. B waterfront height limits remain intact, but the city agreed to “acknowledge that it is subject to particular state laws concerning the public trust.” Further, the Board of Supervisors will have to consider an ordinance that future waterfront height limit ballot measure contain the language “the lands are held in trust for the People of California.”

Prop. B supporters seem elated with the settlement. “This is the first time we’ve ever seen a former Mayor of San Francisco sue the people of the city that elected him in an attempt to block our people from exercising their voices and their votes at the ballot box,” former S.F. mayor Art Agnos said in a release.  “Today has shown how wrong that was.  We’re glad for a result that vindicates San Francisco voters and permanently protects our wonderful waterfront for everyone to enjoy.”

Newsom, though, is claiming victory too. “Common sense prevailed and I’m pleased that hard working and dedicated staff have agreed on a settlement solution that I’ve long called for,” the lieutenant governor said in a statement. He added that the settlement prevents “Prop. B from creating a precedent weakening environmental protections statewide.”

The settlement prevents the unusual optics of a candidate for governor suing the city where he used to be mayor, in hopes of overturning the will of San Francisco voters. The trial had started in January. Newsom did not bring the lawsuit — it was filed by his predecessor as State Lands Commission chair John Chiang — but Newsom did sit on the commission when the lawsuit was filed.

Ironically, both Newsom and Chiang are both running for governor in the November 2018 election.

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