The developers of a 351-unit rental complex at 16th and Mission streets failed to impress parents Monday night at an informational meeting with the San Francisco Unified School District Board.
“Not to sound dramatic, but what you are describing sounds kind of like a warzone,” said Bianca Gutierrez, who like many at the meeting has a child at nearby Marshall Elementary School.
Gutierrez was reacting to the developer’s description of a year and a half construction process for two 10-story towers. “It sounds too intense for my son. I am sure you wouldn’t send your son there,” she said.
Throughout the meeting, parents and school administrators made it clear that Maximus Development Partners will have to pay dearly to win the support of Marshall Elementary. The project, which also includes a single five-story building, requires the developer to provide a community benefit to the 240-student elementary school. Once an agreement on the benefit is reached, the board will take a vote on it.
Seth Mallen of Maximus explained how the developer plans to mitigate the concerns of parents at the small school where some 80 percent of its students receive free or reduced-price lunch. He said they would control the noise during construction by creating barriers.
The shadows that the new buildings will cast over the playground, he added, could be taken care of by elevating the playground—an offer that would give students more space.
Few parents were impressed.
“My personal feeling is that a school yard is not going to do it for us,” said board member Emily Murase. “A generous offer would be to build us a whole new school.”
The developer heard some 30 people speak against his project, including three current students from Marshall. “I don’t need a new playground because I already have one and I like it the way it is,” said one student as the crowd clapped.
“This room is usually not this full,” remarked one of the board members.
Two people defended the project saying that the city needs more housing stock and that it might help clean up an area that has the highest level of crime in the Mission.
The developer argued that a development with 32,000-square-feet of storefront would help keep eyes on the street.
“I don’t think we will solve all the problems,” Mallen said, “but I think that we can solve some.”
The crowd hissed.
Even more moderate voices including the Marshall PTA president Michele McMahon-Cost, want the developer to increase its pledge to the school.
“I think it’s safe to say that we wish this development was not happening, but there is a group of us that are pragmatic and realize there are zoning laws that enable this project,” she said. “If it’s not Maximus, it’s going to be someone else. We have an opportunity to secure some longtime benefits.”
Several parents spoke about the developer providing an endowment to a school that does not have a full-time physical education or art teachers.
It is unclear how much money the parents are seeking or how much the developer is willing to provide. Many cited their fears of gentrification and the lack of funding the state has provided to the school.
“It’s frightening that we are negotiating with companies to give us the basics,” said Marcelle Pulos, a third grade teacher at Marshall.
Others like Christina Soto, a parent of two students at Marshall and a resident at one of the nearby single-room occupancy hotels was worried about the impact the development would have when nearby buildings come down.
“What I am worried about is the plagues, when the building is demolished what are you going to do with the vermin?” asked Christina Soto. “We already have a problem with the vermin, imagine what is going to happen when they demolish those buildings.”
After a long night, Mallen said Maximus remains ready to meet with more community groups and the school district to reach an agreement. What that agreement will look like, however, remains unclear.
“This is what we heard and what we are responding to it,” said Mallen. “It is not the end of it at all.”
The School Board meeting, however, offered a sense of what Maximum might expect from residents who attend later hearings at the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.
And when the School Board meeting ended on Monday night, Mallen was the first to pack his briefcase and scoot out the door.