San Francisco Mission District housing activists rallied today on the windswept corner of Cesar Chavez and Mission streets in front of the fenced parking lot of the former Kelly-Moore Paint store. A for-profit developer has won approval from the city Planning Commission to build a Walgreens and market rate ($500,000 plus) condos on the site, along with a few more affordable units. They want the Board of Supervisors, meeting on July 17, to overrule that decision and allow development of affordable housing units on top of small business storefronts and a space for community services such as the Day Laborer Program.
This skirmish is one front in a multi-part battle over the future of San Francisco. A speaker from SEIU retirees nailed what's going on here:
Housing activists speak for a picture of community that includes low-wage workers and their families, especially the traditional Latino population of the Mission. The approved plan tells the new story: the units they would build include 30 1-bedrooms, 27-two bedrooms, and 3 3-bedrooms. Nobody is envisioning families here!
Araceli Lara reminds us all that the people can win. "Si, Se Puede!"
Joseph Smooke from the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center pointed dramatically to the building kitty-corner across Cesar Chavez; the Gateway projects there are union-financed affordable housing won ten years ago by a similar community coalition. Then as now, powerful private developers thought to impose upscale values on the 'hood. Plans exist for the alternative project; perhaps political pressure can force the private developer to get on board with them.
A staffer from State Senator Carole Migden's office read a letter in support of affordable housing. The Senator is in a hot primary against Assemblyman Mark Leno. These people should have to run in contested elections often -- the competition improves their behavior. Score one for Carole.
A representative of the Day Labor Program roused the small crowd. For many years, immigrant men gathered in front of the paint store here, hoping to pick up casual work from contractors. Many years ago, the Kelly-Moore was around the corner on Valencia. When it moved to the Cesar Chavez-Mission corner, the day laborers came too. They still string out along Cesar Chavez, even though the paint store is long closed.
Nick Pagoulatos spoke for the Mission Anti-Dispacement Coalition (MAC). Ever since the encroaching dotcom boom of the 90s and the Willie Brown era of civic corruption, MAC has worked to keep the Mission community intact. How long a poor, heavily immigrant, and largely Latino community can stave off market forces remains to be seen. The city will be a boring, antiseptic place if the pursuit of gross profits is allowed to drive out the people who give it its character.