San Francisco Delays Approval of ‘Gentrifying’ Housing Complex

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Siding with anti-gentrification activists, San Francisco officials on Tuesday delayed the construction of an eight-story housing development in a historically Latino neighborhood, a move some critics say will exacerbate the city’s housing crisis.

Supporters portrayed the proposed 75-unit complex in the city’s Mission District as a necessary tool to ease the city’s severe housing shortage. The proposed 7,900-square-foot structure at 2918 Mission Street, which includes ground-floor retail space, is one block away from a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station, fitting in with regional goals to build more housing near public transit.

“If the city cannot build housing projects one block from the BART station on one of the most heavily transit serviced streets in the city, I think the availability of housing in this city is doomed,” Mission District resident Dustin White told the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

But opponents painted the project as the latest in a long line of high-end apartment complexes that serve only to push out low-income residents and change the character of a traditionally working-class and Latino neighborhood.

“Mission Street is the backbone of the Mission,” said Scott Weaver, of the Mission District’s Calle 24 Latino Cultural District group. “It’s getting upscaled from fancy restaurants, wine bars and high-end retail. This is by definition what gentrification does, and the gentrification created by this project will only throw another log on that fire.”

Community activists previously argued that the location of the proposed development, currently home to a laundromat and parking lot, was historically significant because activists and non-profit groups used the building as a meeting place from 1973 to 1985. After a four-month review, the city’s planning department found the property was not eligible for a historic designation.

Opponents also argued that children in nearby schools will be harmed by construction noise, dust, debris and a lack of sunlight once the building goes up. But the developer and planning officials say all of those concerns were addressed in detailed mitigation plans.

Tuesday’s meeting focused on whether the board should grant an appeal seeking to overturn the San Francisco Planning Commission’s decision to exempt the project from further environmental review.

Representing the developer, Mark Loper told the board on Tuesday that it should not vote against the project simply because this development consists of nearly 90 percent market-rate housing units.

The project includes eight affordable housing units, totaling about 11 percent, less than the city’s usual 14.5 percent affordability requirement for new developments. The property owner, Richard Tillman, used a state density bonus law to add units to the project without increasing the number of below-market-rate units.

“Requiring further environmental review for this project is unsupported by the substantial evidence before you,” Loper said. “It would also send an anti-housing message and would further exacerbate the city’s housing crisis.”

Before the vote, several residents urged city officials to change zoning laws that prohibit construction of taller apartment buildings in the city’s western neighborhoods.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents District 9 where the proposed development would be built, said she agrees that more housing needs to be constructed all over the city, not just in the South of Market area and Mission District, where many new housing complexes have been constructed in recent years.

However, Ronen rejected attempts to characterize Mission District residents as categorically opposed to new housing projects.

“There has been tons of development happening in the Mission,” Ronen said. “This community welcomes that development, but wants the housing for the people who live there.”

Ronen asked the board to vote in favor of the appeal that would subject the project to further environmental review. Ronen said she wants further study on how the new building will impact two nearby schoolyards.

“There’s not enough analysis as to how the impacts of this project will impact that public open space,” Ronen said.

The board voted unanimously in favor of Ronen’s proposal to delay the project pending further review of its impact on nearby schoolyards.

High paying jobs with technology companies like Facebook, Google and Salesforce have helped drive up incomes and the cost of living in one of the most expensive cities in the nation.

Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco was estimated at $3,460 per month in 2015, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute.

Median income in San Francisco increased from $88,500 in 2015 to $96,600 in 2016, according to U.S. Census data.

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