Newsom defends state’s lawsuit over San Francisco waterfront development

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom chairs the State Lands Commission, which has sued to nullify a San Francisco ballot measure limiting waterfront development.
(Nick Ut / Associated Press)

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom defended the state’s lawsuit seeking to overturn a San Francisco ballot measure limiting waterfront development on Thursday, rejecting arguments that the legal action threatens efforts statewide to restrain coastal development and oil drilling.

Newsom, a Democrat running for governor, chairs the State Lands Commission, which has sued to nullify the 2014 San Francisco ballot measure that requires voter approval for any waterfront project that exceeds the city’s height limit.

The Sierra Club, San Francisco and other opponents say the State Lands Commission could block voters around the state from passing measures to control coastal development, such as the Santa Monica and Hermosa Beach bans on offshore oil drilling.

Newsom, however, said the State Lands Commission has largely prevented overdevelopment and oil drilling on the coast. To let local voters neuter its power through measures approving bad coastal projects “could have real consequence,” he said.

“Some parts of the state are very different than San Francisco,” Newsom said after a commission meeting in Los Angeles. “They’re actually very pro-development, not anti-development.”


Newsom is a longtime ally of San Francisco real estate developers, who have been major contributors to his campaigns.

“We didn’t act against San Francisco,” Newsom, a former mayor of the city, said of the lawsuit. “We acted on behalf of an entire state, and I think it’s a really important point.”

A final ruling in the case could come as soon as next week.

Newsom also called for more transparency at the commission.

The Times reported Thursday that former Sen. Barbara Boxer lobbied Newsom and another commissioner on behalf of Poseidon Water LLC, which is seeking the panel’s approval of a seawater desalination plant in Huntington Beach. Newsom and Commissioner Betty Yee, the state controller, disclosed their meetings with Boxer only in response to questions from The Times.

“Nobody should be hiding anything, so we should do more” to disclose lobbying, Newsom said.

Poseidon Water says Boxer was not legally required to report her lobbying.



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