Listen Local: Lauren Smiley on Mission St.

The prospective plans for the Vida Condos and New Mission Theater. Image courtesy of Oyster Development Group.

The prospective plans for the Vida Condos and New Mission Theater. Image courtesy of Oyster Development Group.

In the March issue of San Francisco Magazine, Lauren Smiley writes the following:

For decades, Mission Street has resisted gentrification. Even as parallel Valencia Street has become permanently yuppified and high-end shops have crept onto staunchly Latino 24th Street, Mission Street has remained the city’s largest and densest proletarian boulevard, a multicultural equivalent of Chinatown’s Stockton Street. But now, the vital low-rent artery that pulses between 16th Street and Cesar Chavez has become the hottest—and most controversial—frontier of speculation in San Francisco.

What follows is a great, enviable piece of journalism that delves deep into the real estate deals and  characters of the rapidly changing, but persistently character-rich corridor.

For what will be the first of many new editions of Listen Local, Mission Local’s podcast, I decided to spend a Sunday morning with Lauren walking down one of the neighborhood’s most historic corridors. While we couldn’t possibly cover the breadth of Lauren’s piece or the incredible diversity of Mission Street, we did get into some pretty surprising stories about new condo development, vociferous community voices, and aerial vandalism. Listen below:

Listen Local: Walking Mission Street with Lauren Smiley

Image courtesy Telestar Logistics. Intro Music by Sunsearch Spirit and outro by Kevin McLeod

 

Full Disclosures: Lauren was at one point the interim editor for Mission Local. Second, I contributed a small sidebar to Lauren’s story for the print edition of her article “Last Street Standing.”

Stay Tuned! We’re going to be producing more editions of Listen Local in the coming weeks. Let us know what you think and what you’d like to hear more of.

45 Comments

  1. 24-24

    “For decades, Mission Street has resisted gentrification”

    Yes, Gentrifiers were trying to rent out or buy on Mission and the locals on Mission Street resisted taking their money.

    • John

      As Lauren says in the piece, re Vida Condos, “everyone got what they wanted”. And that of course is how it should be.

      But the squabbles cited here are only about the large developments. The whole other side of the change to the New Mission is the small incremental changes.

      A building here, a building there and pretty soon a neighborhood has changed without anyone really noticing. Piecemeal progress is much harder for the anti-growth folks to prevent.

      There are thousands of owners of small buildings in the Mission and each one of them is trying to improve his property gradually. An affordable home ownership opportunity here, cocktail bar there, a fusion restaurant down the block, a bijou kitsch store around the corner and, in the end, the result is the same.

      Big developments get all the attention but there are a lot of us small property owners who fly under the radar. The demographics of the New Mission imply a moderation of ideology and a focus on continuous improvement. But the Old Mission is large enough to ensure that it will endure in some form as well.

      We all win. There is room for everyone here and many of us do not like such tribal squabbles. The Mission is now more diverse than in any time I can recall.

    • Avatar of Mark Rabine Mark Rabine Staff

      That’s one way of interpreting what it means to have “resisted gentrification”. Another interpretation is that the “local” owners (who in some cases were from half way around the world) have been sitting on the property, not investing a dime, waiting for the best time to sell. Now they are ready to sell to developers and it’s the developers who run into the community “buzzsaw.” That’s what I saw. Either way, a complex process. Congrats to Lauren for an excellent piece and to Dan and Lauren for the podcast.

      • marcos

        Was gentrification resisted by the community or not supported by the market until now?

        The article bolsters the case that the nonprofits stand as extortionist gatekeepers, unable to stop the action of developers or to initiate action of their own but quite capable of attaching a price tag to the actions of others so that electeds have fig leaves of pretending to care for “the people.”

        Given election results, most residents of the Mission oppose luxury development and support a strong affordable housing take. But the outcomes under recent electeds and the nonprofits are the opposite of what the community states that it wants when it is asked. That the community is only asked what it wants at election time and that organizers tell the community what it wants, there is no evidence that the nonprofits represent anyone but themselves, they certainly do not represent the community.

        • John

          Planning decisions are made on a city-wide basis, so while the views of just Mission residents aren’t unimportant, there are city-wide imperatives that drive, say, new housing in those areas where it is impossible, and the Mission is one of them.

          Impact fees and BMR set-asides are negotiated by the interested parties as part of the planning process and, generally, they are set high enough to be useful but not high enough for the project to go away.

          The non-profits do their best to get their pound of flesh but, in the final analysis, the city needs developers and their investment more than they need us. So a deal is done.

          Your approach seems to be to make each new project so uneconomic that it doesn’t get done. You should not be shocked that there aren’t many votes in that, which is why your views are over-ridden.

          As the piece says, in the end, everyone gets what they want. Except perhaps for the kneejerk, “build nothing” NIMBY’s. And they rightly have little influence.

          • marcos

            The issue at hand here is the relationship between the neighborhood, advocates and the nature of land use outcomes.

            Thanks for playing.

          • John

            That is just one part of the issue. There are other parts including city-wide planning imperatives and development targets, building a bigger tax base to support the increasing demand for city services, and ensuring that the city’s housing stock meets the requirements of the workers that the city needs.

            That’s why no one party ever gets everything that they want, but why the outcome is often a reasonable compromise for everyone except the unreasonable.

          • marcos

            I was not commenting on those externalities. Why must you hijack a thread to discuss the things you are interested in? Why not start your own thread and see if anyone responds?

          • John

            Because they are not externalities. You make it sound like a project going up in the Mission is purely a Mission decision. It isn’t because the Mission isn’t a jurisdiction. It’s a neighborhood.

            Put another way, even if Campos hates a project, it gets built if six of the other Supes want it. Assuming it even goes to the Supes.

            You keep gloating about 8-Wash but, again, that was a city-wide decision. Mission voters got to help decide its fate and downtown voters and interests get to decide Mission projects.

            You’re looking at just one part of the puzzle and wondering why you can’t understand the outcome. Think bigger.

          • marcos

            The topic of this article is planning in the Mission, not citywide planning.

          • John

            There is no such thing as “planning in the Mission”. There is only “planning for the Mission” which is ultimately a city-wide process conducted by a much broader constituency.

            It sounds to me that you want 94110 to secede from the city and incorporate. Good luck with that.

          • marcos

            Yes there is such a thing as planning in the Mission and it is described in the Mission Area Plan of the Eastern Neighborhoods planning process.

          • John

            There are of course neighborhood forums and groups who pontificate about such matters and submit their ideas to the higher powers.

            But they are advisory in nature. They are not the decision-makers. I’m actually in one of them (and no, I won’t tell you which).

            The residents of the Mission do not ultimately get to decide what gets built in the Mission. But at the margin, they may have some influence over the pound of flesh that is extorted in return for a new building going up.

            Be content with that.

          • marcos

            Are you through spewing your verbiage yet?

          • John

            When marcos resorts to personal abuse, as he always does in the end, readers know he has lost the debate.

            Why do you insist in arguing the unarguable? At least give me a challenge.

          • marcos

            There is no debate going on here, just the usual hijacking of yet another thread with spurious verbiage.

          • John

            marcos, whenever you lose a debate you claim the thread has been “hijacked” even though my points are totally on topic.

            Indeed, the reason why you fail to understand why these projects go ahead is directly attributable to your lack of awareness of the processes and procedures whereby projects are approved.

            Again, I implore you, broader your perspective and things will become clearer.

  2. marcos

    The article lays out the nature of the mau-mauing of the flack catchers that trades standing down from resisting gentrification for a few crumbs thrown to the nonprofits.

    Full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.

  3. Bob

    Everyone got what they wanted when people negotiated sensibly. Who wants dumpy pawn shops and SROs? Nobody.

    The refurbished theater is going to be awesome, and we definitely need the new housing. Viva la gentrificacion!

    • landline

      The condo project displaced the Giant Value dollar store, not pawn shops nor SRO’s.

      Many people support SRO’s, especially their residents.

      • Bob

        OK if you say so. At least some of us are happy that Mission Street is returning to its former glory when it was not a corridor of plastic junk shops and slum housing.

        • John

          I know, Bob. Sadly there is an element in the Mission who display what I can best call “inverted snobbery”.

          If it’s cheap, nasty, squalid and dangerous, they love it. If it’s clean, safe, prosperous and successful, they hate it.

          Importantly, the advocates for squalor are not winning. Such an attitude always strikes me as a form of self-hatred.

      • marcos

        Without SROs there would be many more homeless. The kernel of contemporary homeless in SF is when the SROs that used to be where Moscone is were destroyed for redevelopment.

        This is not an argument for whether what was there before is better or worse than what is there now. It is a statement of fact.

        • John

          marcos, to support your claim that the “kernal” of SfFs homeless today are the direct result of displacement from the Moscone Center, you would have to furnish evidence that more than 50% of today’s homeless result from that construction.

          The Moscone Center was built almost 40 years ago and so your claim assumes that most of the displaced folks are still around and alive AND that the numbers of homeless who have arrived in SF since then is somehow a smaller number.

          That seems highly improbable, but I await your evidence to the contrary.

          • marcos

            There were some 3-4000 SRO units along “skid row” 3/4 Folsom/Mission that were demolished for Moscone. Removing that many SROs created the kernel of homelessness in San Francisco.

            Source: “Yerba Buena Land Grab” Chester Hartman.

            http://www.amazon.com/Yerba-Buena-community-resistance-Francisco/dp/0912078375

          • John

            marcos, I will concede that the displacement back then may have generated the “kernel” of the homeless population back then.

            But it does not follow that the kernel NOW is from those events since the chances are that anyone over 30 who was displaced is now dead.

          • marcos

            The kernel of contemporary homeless can be traced back to the elimination of 3-4000 units of very affordable SRO housing for Moscone.

            kernel: “the central or most important part of anything; essence; gist; core: His leadership is the kernel of the organization.”

            contemporary “present.”

          • John

            That assertion is not true just because you repeat it. Please indicate what percentage of that alleged 3000-4000 displaced persons are still homeless in SF. Furnish evidence to back it up.

            There is rarely any point in arguing about what might have been or should have been 35 years ago. But in this case I’d argue that those events have an impact on the current housing situation that is as close to zero as it is possible to measure.

            If you have contrary data, present it.

          • marcos

            Not only are you solipsistic, you are also ahistorical. The history of the world began with Ronald Reagan’s election and nothing has happened since.

          • John

            OK, marcos, so you have no proof, evidence, data or statistics to support your claim?

            Got it.

          • marcos

            I pointed you to professor Hartman’s book. Have you read it?

          • John

            I asked you for specific data relating today’s homeless in Sf to those displaced.

            Telling me to read some book is a copout.

          • marcos

            The specific data are in Hartman’s books. There are even pictures in the book.

          • John

            OK, so you have no direct data that you can cite, link or reference?

            QED.

          • marcos

            I pointed you to a published source.

          • John

            No, you claimed that some book somewhere agrees with you. I counter that a book somewhere agrees with me.

            I asked you for a direct cite to proof that the people displaced by the Moscone Center form the “kernel” of today’s homeless in SF.

            A book written years ago cculd not possibly have analysed today’s homeless, so readers know that claim is bogus.

            In fact, fairly obviously, most of the homeless from 40 years ago are not dead, in an institution or moved away.

            Your claim is false.

  4. Bob

    So much drama over one little building. The Mission needs 20 more of these at least.

  5. nutrisystem

    What’s with the slanty windows?

    Does this meaningless affectation make it a “signature residence” for “disruptive” entrepreneurs?

    • marcos

      Each vertical is a middle finger extended to the surrounding neighborhood.

    • C. Russo

      It’s ironic architecture. See, postmodernism of the 1980s gave us pastiches of previous styles. Now we have the new New Mission, which is goofy mid-century. Same with the shite at Mission and 15th. Don’t tell the owners, but postmodernism is dead. Outdated before it’s even built. So much for SF’s being the vanguard.

  6. landline

    The 3,000 to 4,000 SRO units that were demolished south of Market as part of urban removal, ahem renewal, could house up to 8,000 people who otherwise would be homeless.

    One doesn’t have to read a book to know that fact.

    • John

      Those SRO’s were dilapidated and were doomed anyway. If it hadn’t been a convention center, it would have been something else. The area was always going to be redeveloped, given its location.

      Anyway, marcos stated that it was the people displaced who form the “kernel” of today’s homeless population. No evidence to support that idea has been presented. It seems highly unlikely to be true given that nearly 40 years has since passed.

      The general consensus is that we have too many SRO’s and not too few. They are a disproportionate source of crime and public health issues, as frequently discussed here and elsewhere.

  7. landline

    4,000 SRO units would lower the homeless population by up to 8,000. Older housing stock is refurbished all the time. Look at the Mission District.

    Why don’t John and marcos consummate their relationship already and give the rest of us a break?

    • John

      But that wasn’t the point marcos was trying and failing to make. His claim was that those displaced 35-40 years ago form the “kernel” of today’s homeless folks.

      That is evident nonsense given that, in all that time, most of the displaced folks will have died, been institutionalized somewhere or will have moved away.

      Whether it would be better to have 4,000 more SRO rooms is another debate which we could have. But many people hold the view that SROs are focal points for crime, drugs, prostitution, squalor and health hazards. And that we need less of them, not more.

      To the other, criticizing two people here for having a debate while you are contributing to that same debate but trying to disguise that by starting a new indentation is as shallow and transparent as your claim to be ignoring me.

      You want to stop but you can’t.

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