ConstructionIn a city hungry for development along the eastern waterfront, one large hurdle looms – the cap on new office space development.  The cap, imposed by the voters as Proposition M in 1986, limits new office development by square footage.  While the cap increases each year by 950,000 square feet, the recent building boom will soon subsume the office space that is available for allocation.

Enter Proposition O on this November’s ballot. 

Proposition O would exempt new office construction at Candlestick Point and Hunters Point from the existing cap, allowing development of the projects to continue.  San Francisco voters have previously supported these projects through Proposition G in 2008, which encouraged development in the area and allowed the City to implement a redevelopment plan that could include over 2 million square feet of office space and up to 885,000 square feet of retail and entertainment uses, 10,500 housing units, and approximately 330 acres of public parks and open space.

Proponents argue that Proposition O will create essential jobs in the Candlestick Point and Hunters Point neighborhoods, both for construction jobs related to the development and a projected 17,000 permanent jobs once the projects are completed.  Supporters also point out that while the Proposition M office cap may make sense for downtown San Francisco, it is harder to justify limiting development in and around the old shipyard which is sparsely populated today.

Opponents of this proposition argue that Proposition M was enacted to limit office development for a reason, and the fact that the City is close to the Proposition M cap means that the cap is finally working, not that it needs to be raised.

Further, this ballot measure is a precursor to a broader discussion on whether the cap set by Proposition M should be raised for all development in the City, and under what conditions such an increase might occur.  ULI San Francisco has hosted several panels on the topic over the past few years, and the San Francisco Business Times has discussed the possibilities of such an increase here and elsewhere.

For now, San Francisco voters can register their views on new office development under Proposition O while the larger office cap issue remains for another election.

The City’s Department of Elections website lists Dr. Veronica Hunnicutt, Shamann Walton, Sophie Maxwell as the proponent argument authors for Prop O, and Calvin Welch as the opponent argument author.