First Protest Against Monster in the Mission

Dyan Ruiz, Joseph Smooke | 02/07/2014

The Plaza 16 Coalition rallies against condominiums proposed to be built at the northeast corner of 16th and Mission at one of San Francisco’s busiest intersections.


Dyan Ruiz, Reporter, [people. power. media]: Last weekend, people gathered at one of the busiest transit hubs in the San Francisco Bay Area concerned about a developer’s plans to tear down existing businesses to make way for 351 condominiums at the northeast corner of 16th and Mission.

The protest at the BART Station Plaza was organized by the newly formed “Plaza 16 Coalition.” They say that developments such as the one proposed on that site should be affordable for people who live and work in the Mission District. San Francisco is currently the most expensive city for rent in the US.

Ruiz: The action comes out of the increasing distress about the rapid gentrification of San Francisco. Here in the Mission District, a Latino neighborhood for decades, many families and working class people are being priced out or evicted from their homes.

Guillermina is a mother who lives in the Mission District.

Guillermina Castellanos, Mission District resident: Éste van hacer unos ese edificio que van a hacer no va a hacer para nuestras familias van a hacer para otra clase de familias que tienen dinero. Nosotros no tenemos el dinero suficiente para pagar esos condominios.

English subtitles: This building they want to build, it won’t be for our families. It will be for another class of families that have money. And we don’t have sufficient money to pay for these condominiums.

Ruiz: The project which is under early review at the San Francisco Planning Department is built around a plaza that is an entrance to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). The City’s guiding principles for this project include transit-oriented development and the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan. The proposed site currently has a Walgreens, Burger King, a Chinese restaurant and a bar.

The developers, Maximus Real Estate Partners, are proposing a building that would be 10 stories tall, containing 351 housing units with 32,000 square feet of retail and a parking garage.

For the Plaza 16 Coalition,* more community input is needed.

Maria Zamudio, Organizer, Causa Justa::Just Cause: The existing residents of this neighborhood the existing residents of this Plaza need to be at the table when planning conversations are happening they need to decide what kind of housing they want what they want it to look like where they want it to go what kind of affordability levels are going to be at.

Ruiz: The coalition comes from a group that came together during the boom in the late 1990’s.

The Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition led the creation of the “People’s Plan” for the Mission District Eastern Neighborhoods Rezoning. The Coalition is demanding that this plan be a framework used for all developments in the Mission District. In 2008, amendments from the People’s Plan to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors included...

-requiring that sites over 10,000 square feet be ALL affordable housing to reverse family flight;

-maintaining heights up to 4 to 5 stories to reduce incentives to build luxury condos; and

-requiring public input for building heights and types of businesses that can locate in the Mission District.

For this current development, the Coalition says the proposed building will cast a shadow on a nearby Public Elementary Spanish Immersion School.

Zamudio: their towers are going to overshadow the Marshall Elementary School schoolyard for 5 months out of the school year. They’re literally overshadowing the needs of working class Latino students.

The Planning Department’s preliminary review says the shadow of the building would not be cast on Recreation and Parks property. Therefore, a shadow on the school was not flagged by Planning staff.

Ruiz: In the proposal submitted to the San Francisco Planning Department in October 2013, there was no plan for affordable housing on or off site by the developers. We asked the  spokesperson about their plans, if any, for building affordable units and details on their progress for purchasing the site.

A representative of Maximus Real Estate Partners said in an email response to [people. power. media], the “Terms of the deal are confidential.” For the question about affordable housing, the developer said, “We are currently planning the inclusionary housing in the project as outlined by law.”

For new developments, the city requires that 12 percent of the units be affordable housing on site, also known as inclusionary housing. A developer can also opt to pay a fee instead, or build the below market rate units at another site.

The community is saying this is not enough, and wants ALL the units to be affordable.

In the email, the developer said they’ve had 75 meetings with businesses, government agencies, organizations and people about the project and continue to “reach out.”

Much of the arguments for the development center on the idea that the corner needs to be cleaned up. People think of the site as a place for drug-dealing and homeless people. A nearby resident who said he was formerly homeless, supports the development for this reason.

Gabriel, Mission District resident: it’s new development we have to move forward we cannot be stuck in the same situation that we are right now. It’s unhealthy for these young people these young people have to see all these drug dealers

Ruiz: The Coalition says they’re looking at issues that go beyond the development itself, such as safety. But they say that condominiums do not provide people with a way to get off the street.

Laura Guzman, Director, Mission Neighborhood Resource Center: You know, to tell the truth, there’s only one thing that ends homelessness and that’s called a home, that’s called homes that are affordable!

Ruiz: Ultimately, what it comes down to is the question of affordability. Will this development make it more or less affordable to live and work in this neighborhood? Affordability is not just about where you live, it’s about businesses that serve people in the community.

For the existing businesses, the developer says first right of refusal is being offered, but realistically the small businesses there will not be able to afford the new rent.

This merchant association leader says that his experience is that when a development like this goes up, the surrounding businesses will be priced out.

Erick Arguello, Calle 24 Merchant Association: what ends up happening is you get realtors talking with the existing merchants trying to find out when their leases come due trying to find out who the property owners are and then offer them more money to bring in another business that’s going to be able to cater to this new market.

Ruiz: He’s seen business owners being forced to move out and go out of business because they can not afford increases in rent. A similar tale is being told throughout the Mission District for residents.

Leydi Cool, Mission District resident: Hay muchas personas que los dan sacando de sus viviendas. Mucha gente tan sufriendo todo eso les suben más la renta para ver a sacar a mucha gente para fuera.

English subtitles: There are many people getting evicted from their homes. There are many who are suffering greatly for all this. Rents keep going up so we see many people forced to move outside the city.

Ruiz: The next step for the developer will be to hold a Pre-Application meeting with surrounding neighbors and organizations. The date is not yet set, but you can follow the progress of the project on our website.

This Dyan Ruiz for People Power Media.

Community Engagement

[people. power. media] believes in Community Engagement. We participated in meetings with the Plaza 16 Coalition since October 30, 2014 through 2015.

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