The band Revolt was halfway through its set at the 16th and Mission plaza on Saturday afternoon when the lead singer announced the next song, ‘Dissent,’ which is about displacement.
The trio smashed power chords, pressed keyboard strokes, and banged drums, but the the speaker for the vocals went out and no one could hear the lyrics. That disconnect turned into the perfect mirror of what those on the plaza feel about City Hall. They are making a lot of noise, but no one is listening.
“Mayor Ed Lee listens to the tech companies but he doesn’t listen to the poor.” said Oscar Varela, 43, whose wife works at the Walgreens on the intersection that would be demolished if the proposal is approved.
Varela echoed the sentiment among about a dozen community groups and some 100 people gathered at the plaza on Saturday afternoon for the 16th and Mission festival. It was an event with live music, art installations and speeches from neighborhood non-profits. The groups, which cut across age and ethnic lines, oppose a 10-story, 351-unit residential development at the plaza that would displace a Walgreens and several businesses.
Included in the opposition are some parents from nearby Marshall Elementary School. The dozen or so parents at Saturday’s event said their main concern is the construction period and the potential shadows the final project will cast. Parents said the building will put the playground in the its shadow for several months a year.
“We have a community here,” said Oscar Grande, the executive director of PODER, one of the non-profits opposing the development. Nearby, a woman who frequents the plaza, took off her shirt and stood uncomfortably next to him. Unfazed, Grande continued and offered a hint at the opposition’s strategy “let the school board know that you don’t want this built.”
It’s unclear how many parents oppose the project, but that will become more apparent on June 23 when the Board of Education holds an informational meeting about the proposed project.
The umbrella opposition group, known as the Plaza 16 Coalition, formed after a series of meetings among themselves and the developer, Maximus Real Estate Partners. The coalition vows to oppose the development –which is in the early stages of approval by the city — every step of the way and they will take their case next to the Board of Education.
So far, the opposition has demanded the developer hand the property over to the community, but some feel that is unrealistic. That might be a stretch, said Paola Tejeda. “We live in a capitalist system,” said the owner of nearby Chile Lindo, and one of the loudest voices in the opposition.
Still, the strategy for now, according to organizers is to demand that 100 percent of the units are affordable housing, a move that will likely get the community monetary concessions.
Back at the festival, which went on for four hour without incident, Rick Gerharter, an artist with an office at the Redstone Building, considered the festival a success. He had gathered some 60 signatures of people who want to be involved in the group.
“I am not opposed to development,” he said. “But it is a question of who can live here.”