A four-hour meeting of the Board of Supervisor’s Land Use Committee came to a climax Monday afternoon, as elected officials grilled city planners on their proposal to increase the number of affordable family homes in the Mission District.

“I think you’re gentrifying the neighborhood,” said Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval, referring to the suggested rezoning of Mission Street between 15th and Cesar Chavez.

The current draft of the Eastern Neighborhoods Area Plans—an initiative to protect industry and provide affordable housing in the Mission, East SOMA, Showplace Square/Potrero Hill, and the Central Waterfront—would allow developers to increase the height of buildings along Mission Street from 50 to 85 feet—or three floors—and pack more units into each building.  In exchange, developers would agree to price some of the new apartments for low- and moderate-income buyers.

The plans call for at least 40 percent of these apartments to have two or more bedrooms. The remainder could be any size.

Doug Shoemaker, Deputy Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing, explained that keeping the apartments small would keep costs down, be palatable to developers, and ensure that the homes were within the financial reach of households with an income between roughly $66,000 and $99,000.

But Sandoval shot back, saying that a Mission Street full of two-bedroom apartments, even if they cost less, would fail to suit the needs of the district’s families. The average Mission household size is 3, compared to 2.3 citywide, according to the 2000 Census. Latinos, who make up half of the district’s 62,000 residents, have 3.8 per household.

“You’re not going to see the same people walking down the street,” Sandoval said.

The interchange was a small coup for community groups that say the Area Plans don’t go far enough in providing affordable housing to Mission residents.

“The supervisors did a good job of picking up some points from the community and addressing them and asking tough questions of the planning department,” Jaime Trejo, policy research analyst for the Mission Economic Development Agency, said in an interview.

During the next two weeks, the committee will hold four more hearings to discuss other aspects of the plans before making a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

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Noah Buhayar is print and multimedia student at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He reports primarily on business topics. His work has appeared in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, CBS’s business site and MarketWatch. Before coming to the Bay Area, he taught a semester of high school Spanish in Hawaii, spent a year in southern Chile on a Fulbright grant, and interned with the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer’s online division.

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