Community Rejects Developer's Benefits Proposal
Community members distrust and anger drowns out a developers’ presentation, as they reject the "benefits agreement" for condos in San Francisco's Mission District. They say the condos will only make the class divides worse in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Exclusive [people. power. media] video news feature.
Nancy Obregon: You show me. You give me a place and show me where I can afford to live. You show me a place where I can retire.
Dyan Ruiz, [people. power. media]: A presentation on March 4 was intended to build support for a condo development proposed in San Francisco’s Mission District. But instead it revealed the deep class divides that threaten to tear this community apart. The Developers of the proposed condo buildings next to the 16th and Mission BART Plaza, Maximus Real Estate Partners, hosted the meeting. The intent was to discuss the “Community Benefits” tied to the condos, such as how affordable they would be. Maximus has called this meeting as their very controversial project moves through a critical part of the approval process. Tensions are high as skyrocketing rents, mass evictions and buyouts are forcing out many of the longtime residents in this traditionally Latino and working class neighborhood. The community’s distrust and anger soon drowned out the developers’ presentation. Community members said the condos will only make the class divides worse. San Francisco has the fastest growing inequality gap in the US.
Araceli Lara: Pienso que lo pasó ahora fue algo muy bueno porque nosotros no los escuchamos a ellos. Ellos nos tuvieron que escucharon a nosotros. Porque nosotros somos la comunidad.
(I think that what happened just now was very good, because we didn’t listen to them. They had to listen to us. Because we are the community.)
Ruiz: This could be the largest condo development in the Mission District with 331 units. They are proposing 10 and five storey condo buildings with 32,000 square feet of retail and a parking garage for 163 cars. On March 4, Maximus presented to the community what they called in their press release a "New Approach to Build Housing for All Income Levels in the Mission District." New approach is actually a euphemism for not allowed in the Planning Code.
Joe Arellano, Maximus Real Estate: It’s never been done before. What we’re going to do is talk to the City and see what we can do to work with them, to make what we proposed a reality. And to break it down. We’re creating those middle class homes at 120% AMI.
Ruiz: Maximus wants the inclusionary units in their proposed development to be affordable to households who are at 120% of area median income, or AMI, not 90 % AMI as required by the City. Inclusionary housing is the City requirement for below market rate units within new developments. Maximus wants a wealthier group of people to be among their luxury apartment tenants. There are also questions about where these below market rate units would go within the proposed buildings. Are these units going to distributed among the market rate units? Or will Maximus have these units segregated, so lower income households will have to enter through their own “poor door”? This violation of the Planning Code to have wealthier people in the inclusionary housing is the cornerstone of Maximus’s proposal.
Arellano: What we’re offering tonight is to commit giving the City $12.3 million from the sale of the middle-class housing that we’re going to build at 16th and Mission and that is going to be used to build those 49 below market apartments.
Ruiz: Maximus says these 49 off site units would be available to people between 30 to 55% of AMI. While Maximus says in their press release that their plan would build these 49 apartments “in the Mission,” there is no guarantee this would happen. Their communications rep acknowledged this.
Ruiz: So, where is the site for the off-site below market rate units?
Arrelleno: You know that hasn’t been decided yet, because it’s up to the City to decide where those units are going to go.
Ruiz: The City could decide not to use that money for the Mission District. There is also no guarantee that anything Maximus offers the community would actually materialize. We asked the Planning Department “Through what mechanism would Maximus be held accountable” for the 42 onsite below market rate units and the 49 offsite units? Planning’s response via email was “The City is still developing a binding mechanism.”
Maria Zamudio, Causa Justa :: Just Cause: Maximus as a company and it's gone through a lot of different names has a history of buying up property and buying up land in working class communities of colour and flipping it for profit. They did it in 2005 at the Riverton House in Harlem. They did it here in San Francisco too. In 2005 they bought Parcmerced. They have a plan to demolish all the garden apartments and build up to five thousand market rate units.
Ruiz: Even if the City finds a way to hold Maximus accountable, other Community Benefits Agreements have proven difficult to enforce. A recent example is the deferred affordable housing payment by Lennar Urban at the Shipyard. The proposed expansion of Marshall Elementary School, which is adjacent to the development site, also has no binding mechanism in place for the City to make sure it happens. Maximus is proposing to raise the playground of the Spanish Immersion elementary school to mitigate the shadows that are going to be cast by their proposed buildings. The community is concerned about how the new development would increase rents and no-fault evictions in the area.
Zamudio: It's going to really push the gentrification in the neighborhood into hyper-drive. 16th & Mission, the Mission is one of the most gentrified neighborhoods in the nation. We’re losing our Latino community in this really scary way. Multiple SRO hotels around the development are already either on the market or all of the tenants have been evicted. Across the street from on Capp are rent controlled units where the tenants are already feeling the pressure from their landlords.
Ruiz: These class divides are real. Census data shows that since 2000, the Mission District has 8,000 fewer Latinos. There are also 3,000 fewer working class families of all ethnicities. In contrast, there are 6,000 more households who make an excess of $75,000/year. Meanwhile, housing development in the Mission is following the money. Of the nearly 500 units currently approved or under construction in the Mission, only 34 of those units are below market rate. It’s no wonder the community has one clear demand for the 16th and Mission development.
Chirag Bhakta, Mission SRO Collaborative: What the community wants. 100% percent affordable housing.
Ruiz: How this development works out will signal how the City will deal with the housing affordability crisis in San Francisco. The City will either set a precedent allowing developers to make their own rules increasing the class divides in San Francisco. Or the City will get serious about building housing most people can afford.