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In Surprise Move, Chiu Opposes Controversial Development

Oft-coy Board of Supes president sides with group fighting waterfront condos

David Chiu has come out against plans for a controversial condo project on the San Francisco waterfront.

The mayoral candidate is known for playing his cards close to the vest as president the Board of Supervisors. But at a neighborhood meeting Wednesday night in North Beach, Chiu said he is opposed to building luxury condos at 8 Washington Street, which is located within his district, according to several people in attendance.

Chiu appeared to confirm the remarks in a brief interview Thursday with The Bay Citizen.

“I think right now the current state of the project is too high for that area and I don't think it takes into account all of the needs of the neighborhoods from a recreation standpoint,” Chiu said.  

The 165-condo plan from developer Simon Snellgrove would transform a small triangle of land near the Ferry Building -- prime real estate on the San Francisco waterfront. Getting the backing of the district supervisor is key to getting any project approved, but especially on the waterfront near North Beach. 

The project is opposed by the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, a powerful neighborhood group in Chiu’s district. The group organized the meeting where Chiu spoke on Wednesday. 

The Hill Dwellers and other neighborhood groups are fighting the project because they say the condos are too tall. They also believe that the development would negatively affect the Golden Gateway Tennis & Swim Club even though Snellgrove has promised to renovate the club.

The Hill Dwellers are a political force and famous for opposing projects in and around North Beach. Last year, they helped kill plans for a 400-foot corkscrew-shaped condo tower at 555 Washington Street.

Chiu also opposed the project at 555 Washington. But he sometimes has appeared to avoid taking strong positions on high-profile development projects. Chiu often doesn’t let his feelings be known until it is time to vote and is known to strive for compromise.

At last night’s meeting, which was organized to discuss the plans for the upcoming America’s Cup, Chiu also said that development projects related to the event should be a priority along the waterfront.

Chiu said his position on 8 Washington is not new, but the neighborhood groups said they believed it was.

“I think it was great thing to say,” said Lee Radner, chair of the Friends of Golden Gateway, a neighborhood group that opposes the project. “He cleared the air for many people who thought he was equivocating at times.”

PJ Johnston, a spokesman for the 8 Washington project, said he wasn’t aware of what was said at the meeting and declined comment. 

Snellgrove has a long history in downtown San Francisco. He was involved in building the Embarcadero Center and redoing Piers 1.5, 3 and 5 -- a project that has won the admiration of many San Franciscans. He’s also bidding on another waterfront project at Pier 70. 

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