State Secures protections for Public Trust lands along San Francisco’s Waterfront

Feb 21, 2018 | Press Release, Public Trust

Sacramento, CA – The California State Lands Commission and the City and County of San Francisco staffs have negotiated a mutually beneficial settlement in the litigation concerning the management of the state’s public trust lands and San Francisco’s Proposition B (California State Lands Commission v. City & County of San Francisco, Case No. CGC-14-540531).

“I am pleased that the settlement justly reflects all voices, the voters of San Francisco and the Commission charged with protecting our treasured public lands,” said State Controller and incoming Commission Chair Betty T. Yee. “Going forward, I hope to work closely with the City to pursue efforts to improve the San Francisco waterfront in the best interests of the state.”

The State Lands Commission manages irreplaceable and invaluable public trust lands and natural resources on behalf of all Californians—from our inland to coastal communities. Proposition B requires voter approval for an increase in height limits for individual development projects on public trust lands along San Francisco’s waterfront.

“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,” said Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, outgoing chair of the State Lands Commission. “Through this agreement, we’ve accomplished the State Lands Commission’s objective in bringing this litigation: to prevent Prop B from creating a precedent weakening environmental protections statewide. And I’m pleased that we’ve been able to accomplish this in tandem with upholding the will of San Francisco voters and shielding taxpayers from further unnecessary legal costs.”

The settlement is a sound, common sense resolution that respects the local initiative process in San Francisco while ensuring proper management of the state’s public trust lands for the benefit of all Californians. The settlement enables San Francisco and the Commission to engage in various efforts in furtherance of their respective fiduciary responsibilities through the promotion of public trust principles, including protecting these lands and resources for current and future generations.

Key elements of the settlement are that the City agrees to education and transparency measures relating to its responsibilities as a fiduciary trustee of state-owned public trust lands. In exchange, the Commission agrees to dismiss the litigation and not challenge the validity of Proposition B as applied to the Pier 70 and Mission Rock projects. The Commission also agrees to partner with the Port of San Francisco to support the Seawall Resiliency Project and, in narrow instances where legislatively authorized and to the extent permitted by law, work with the Port to facilitate affordable housing on seawall lots that are filled, cut off from the water, and no longer necessary for trust purposes.

The settlement meets the objectives of both parties in ensuring safeguards are in place to the protect the public’s interest in these lands. The California State Lands Commission, the San Francisco Port Commission, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on the proposed settlement at their respective meetings shortly.