Photo by Noah Arroyo

After years of speculation on how to develop the dilapidated New Mission Theater and the adjacent Giant Value building, two developers with deep pockets have emerged with a plan.

Oyster Development of San Francisco, funded by a Canadian investment group, plans to transform the Giant Value building at 2558 Mission St. into 95 market-rate housing units and 14,000 square feet of retail space.

Next door, Tim League, 42, the owner of the Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, plans to develop a three-screen, 600-seat theater at the site of the New Mission Theater.

The properties, which are on the same lot, are currently going through an environmental review. If all goes according to plan, the San Francisco Planning Commission, the agency in charge of approving such projects, would hear both by November, and both would open by Christmas 2014, said Victor Marquez, a land-use attorney representing the developers.

Local entrepreneur Gus Murad currently owns the land, which he bought from City College for $4.3 million in 2005. His initial plan, to develop market-rate housing at the Giant Value site and a nightclub on the New Mission Theater site, fell apart after the economy tanked in 2008.

Last week developers introduced their plans to a supportive crowd of more than 100 people who gathered at the New Mission Theater. Among those in the crowd were Murad, staff from Supervisor David Campos’ office, residents, businesses owners, landlords, consultants and other Mission power brokers.

Santiago Ruiz, the executive director of Mission Neighborhood Center, is among those who support the development.

“I never thought that this community would ever find an investor who would be willing to infuse the type of funding that this would require in order to rehabilitate it,” Ruiz said. “I thought we were going to get stuck with this place as an eyesore for decades.”

It’s not like there weren’t interested parties.

According to Roberto Hernandez, a community liaison for the developers and a lifelong Mission resident, several companies had expressed interest in the site, including Walgreen’s and Facebook.

Ultimately he was convinced by the developers’ plans, he said, because of the unprecedented benefits the community will receive.

These include a possible $500,000 to fund a plaza on Bartlett Street; a dedication of land to the city so it can build up to 40 units of affordable housing; $1 million to rehabilitate the New Mission Theater, which is considered a city landmark; and about $800,000 in funding to community groups.

Unprecedented Land Allocation in the Mission

To comply with the city’s affordable housing requirement, the developers will give the Mayor’s Office of Housing a piece of land in the Mission where it can develop up to 40 affordable housing units, according to Marquez, the attorney.

Typically developers are required by law to dedicate 15 percent of their units to inclusionary housing or pay a fee that, once the project is completed, will go toward financing affordable housing elsewhere.

“This is the first time [a dedication of land has] ever been done in San Francisco,” Hernandez said. “It’s going to become the model for other communities in San Francisco.”

Information about the exact value and location of the land to be dedicated were not immediately available. The mayor’s office did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

Community organizers prefer the land allocation because it will go further to improve affordable housing in the Mission, Marquez said.

“That’s because the community wanted more units out of it,” Marquez said. “Onsite it would have been no more than 17; offsite you are going to get double.”

Neighborhood groups also netted about $800,000 from the developers.

At the beginning of last week’s meeting, Marquez read a list of organizations that, he said, will benefit from financial contributions by the developer. These include the Mexican Museum, Dolores Street Community Services, People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights, the Central American Resource Center, the Mission Neighborhood Centers and La Raza Centro Legal.

“It’s to give back to the community and be part of the community,” Marquez said.

The Mission Neighborhood Center, for example, will receive about $150,000 from the developers to help finance senior housing and a community center development at 24th and Harrison streets known as Casa De La Mision.

Community groups also support these projects because the developer has included them in the process, said Ruiz and other community organizers.

The fact that many longtime community organizations — some of whom opposed Murad’s original plan to develop market-rate housing — support the projects signals a change in attitude in the neighborhood, organizers said.

“If you look at the new development that has taken place on Mission and 15th streets, that is a major development that for years –for years– because of community opposition, was an eyesore. That is now changed,” Ruiz said. “That is part of the changing community. The attitude is that we do need jobs that are union.”

In addition to providing union construction jobs, Alamo Drafthouse has said it will hire 50 percent of its staff from the neighborhood.

The development was a clear winner at last week’s meeting.

Marquez told the crowd that if the theater site is not developed by Alamo Drafthouse, it will most likely become a nightclub. “Who wants a nightclub?” he asked.

One person raised her hand.

When Marquez asked who wanted a cinema complex, the rest of the crowd raised their hands in unison.

Reporter Noah Arroyo contributed to the reporting.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated an incorrect number of seats for the theater. Plans are for a 600-seat theater at the site of the New Mission Theater.

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Rigoberto Hernandez

Rigoberto Hernandez is a journalism student at San Francisco State University. He has interned at The Oregonian and The Orange County Register, but prefers to report on the Mission District. In his spare time he can be found riding his bike around the city, going to Giants games and admiring the Stable building.

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  1. This is great. It is about time this neglected block is transformed into market-rate housing preferably condos, plus a new theatre; definitely not due to lack of Mr Murad definitely trying to develop his property. Now if only the rest of Mission St & surroudning area could be developed into a safe, clean,family oriented neighbhorhood instead of staying a crime infested, blighted mess. One of the last times any of the non-profits got involved in a project, instead of getting condos/mixed use & even a musuem, the neighborhood got – And that did nothing to improve the neighborhood.

    1. @Pamela,

      My family has been hanging out on Mission Street for decades, thank you very much. Maybe we look different than your family, which is perhaps why you dont think this is a family oriented neighborhood? On any given day, this particular block is full of families- with small brown children(like mine) shopping at Giant Value. The purchasers of those new condos will not be reflective of the population of this neighborhood – maybe Dolores Heights- but that’s the point. Perhaps folks have done the math and figured that the dedication of land that will support 40 units of affordable housing is an adequate trade off for this. I am not at all convinced: 100 new households on that block will not shop at the stores on that block, nor at places like the Chinese grocery across the street, or places like Giant Value. So that one project will have tremendous repercussions on the commercial AND residential make up of the surrounding blocks and the lives of people who work and live there. All people, not just the people who wish “it was cleaned up”. If it’s such a blighted mess, then why are you all trying to come here?

      1. This is what colonization looks like and colonization is why the Planning Department upzoned the Mission. The goal is to replace existing populations with better off moderate to conservative white people who can make sure that San Francisco never has to go through the democratic opening that happened here a decade ago.

        Their side is playing for keeps, ours is not and they are winning big time.

        1. marcos – Can you elaborate on the “democratic opening that happened here a decade ago”?

          1. Back in 1999, as Willie Brown’s pay to play government was alienating San Franciscans, folks from across the City worked on Ammiano’s write-in and runoff campaigns and got to know one another. The next year, 8 candidates from the neighborhoods came together and beat Brown’s corporate candidates. Three years later we came together and came within 15000 votes, 2.5%, of taking the mayor’s office.

            For the next five years, we saw an inkling of what can happen when San Franciscans come together to contest corporate dominance over public policy. Starting in 2005, the empire began to strike back. They did this in a coordinated manner, with a vengeance and by using the media to frame their opponents like Daly and Sanchez as unruly children. They appointed and ran stealth opportunist candidates like David Chiu and Jane Kim to public office.

            Now their goal is to ensure that such popular electoral empowerment never happens again. This is done by holding public resources and access over the heads of nonprofits and unions, threatening to withhold both unless they play ball. Playing ball in this case involves rolling over for the EN plan as well as spot zoning (if memory served, Mission Street was not upzoned in EN in 2008, so this will probably require special zoning) like these projects.

            This upzoning is immensely profitable for developers, appeals to tech suburban transplants who, according to SPUR, come here to swim in the gene pool, find a mate and disperse back to the “safe” suburbs to breed. The comment on this thread from Pamela is emblematic of that trend. This all contributes to the displacement existing residents and will take D9 from a progressive bulwark to a more “moderate,” read politically disengaged district, freeing the hand of the tea party libertarian capitalists like Ron Conway’s boy Ed Lee to further attack San Franciscans through such enlightened ideas as stop and frisk.

            In short, existing residents and our communities are viewed by this crowd as problems needing to be solved and they are quite handy with their “solutions” which include colonization.

            So long as crap continues to flow out of City Hall, I’m going to be critical as I’ve never quite developed a taste for crap like so many have.

        2. Thankfully someone has been paying attention to the recent history of development in SF. Although the term “colonization” makes it seem as if gentrification were mainly a matter of race – or perhaps you meant culture, as in “bourgeois culture”? Because obviously when we look at the “empire” that is currently “striking back,” from the supervisors to the landlords to the developers, the thing they have in common above all is not race or ethnicity but a love of money and few cares for working class.

          1. There is clearly a racial component to gentrification, where suburban whites and Asians are ousting the few remaining blacks and Latinos. But then again, under a black mayor the black population dropped from 12 to 6% so there is much more to it than race. Like my grandparents were “promoted” to whiteness in the mid 20th century when Jews finally became white, Asians are now being incorporated into the racial supremacy class in an effort to maintain racial divisions. This is what I call the ever expanding circles of whiteness.

            But above I mean colonization in an economic and political sense, where the better off and more conservative newcomers are occupying housing in a traditionally moderate income and below neighborhood with the spillover effects of gentrification and displacement. Per international law, this almost borders on the legal definition of genocide, as pertains to forced migrations of populations based on an arbitrary determinant.

            In all cases, the intent here is to eliminate any political threat to continued economic extraction by elites, both in the eastern neighborhoods and citywide. In the Mission, that takes on a special character.

            Unfortunately, the nonprofits remain fixated on race to the practical exclusion of class. Given the election results, they are doing so at their peril, as the precinct numbers clearly show that there is a multi racial progressive coalition operative in the Mission.

            Given that the nonprofits receive their funding via the 1%, foundations, and local political elites in the thrall of developers, the City, they are structurally constrained and essentially paid to make sure that the community is never organized or mobilized along class issues ever again.

            Either we pull back on the stick and start flying with all engines, or progressive, politically and ethnically diverse east side SF will see a controlled descent into terrain. It may already be too late, yet nobody whose been paid to mind this store is paying consequences for their failure to adequately contest the challenge. Indeed, they are constantly rewarding and congratulating themselves over their commitment to the movement.

  2. I would like to clarify that there is not “a possible $500,000 donation to fund a plaza on Bartlett Street.”

    The $500,000 alluded to is from a community impact fund governed by the Eastern Neighborhoods citizens’ advisory committee (ENCAC), that all developers in the eastern neighborhoods are required to pay into.

    The Mission Community Market (MCM) has been working with neighbors for over 2 years to envision how Bartlett Street between 21st and 22nd can better serve the community. We raise funds to create a shared community space and improve family health through nutrition education and benefits for people using EBT and WIC.

    We have a positive relationship working with all property owners on the block, including the developers of the 2558 site, to re-imagine the street. The developers, as well as many residents, business owners and non-profits, have been very supportive of the community process to re-imagine the block.

    We encourage you to take part in this process and tell us your design and program ideas for Bartlett! With your input we can propose a design to the ENCAC and truly secure that funding for community-serving public space.

  3. Marquez is sooooo wrong. PODER never agreed to accept any of that hush money. PODER has played a crucial grassroots organizing role here in the neighborhood for 21 years. As a membership-based environmental & economic justice organization we believe in bottom up solutions to what ails us. We believe and work towards public policy and community practices that restore our community and mother earth.

    Along with Dolores St. Community Services and others, PODER did work with the developer on the Land Dedication to meet the affordable housing requirements for the project. 40 units of affordable homes in the MISSION for working families making under 60 thousand ain’t that bad. Of course it could’ve been better but we do the best we can under the current political & economic conditions.

    1. Oscar, the situation here is so crappy that the only solution is broad based community organizing that involves moving outside of all of our comfort zones.

  4. I am the Executive Director of Dolores Street Community Services, and I just want to clarify that our organization has been offered a donation from this developer but we have not yet decided whether or not to accept it. We are in the process of getting more information about the full package of community benefits offered through this project and will make a decision based on that. Our organization, along with other community-based groups, did work with the developer on the Land Dedication to meet the affordable housing requirements for the project. However, we take an approach of considering the full spectrum of community impacts and potential community benefits before supporting or opposing any project.

    1. Community based and community rooted are two different things entirely.

      Nobody in the neighborhood has any democratic contribution to what choices these private nonprofits make, thus their claims to be community-based are only true in that they office here.

      Representation has to be earned, and appealing to the government and private grant making foundations for funding does not connote representative legitimacy that apparently working to elect supervisors does.

      Whether or not the legitimacy conferred through the supervisor is valid, the outcomes are clearly the opposite of what the community-based groups claim to desire. It is not like we’re only getting 1/2 of what they say they want, it is like they’re lucky to get 10% of what they demand.

      Many in the nonprofit housing sector say that the circumstances in the Mission now are worse than before EN. DSCS was granted stakeholdership for the EN process and succeeded in uniting everyone in the neighborhood against DSCS. The resulting plan was terrible for the Mission, yet DSCS is always first in line to be offered payments.

      By any measure, that is corruption that is made worse by the conservative outcomes that benefit the rich and screw the unrich except for the lucky handful that qualify for BMR units.

  5. Wow, that was fast. Finding something to complain about is pretty easy.

    This sounds like a solid plan with a lot of neighborhood benefit.

    And it’s a hell of a lot better than vacant lots and dilapidated buildings, which are a blight on the Mission and any neighborhood. I’m a Mission District native — born here, hope to die here — happy to see new, exciting projects on central Mission.

    40 units of affordable housing is a meaningful contribution. Nonprofit developers are an important provider of affordable housing and services. They should be lauded and supported, not derided and abused for not doing more.

    I’m glad I don’t live next to Marcos. I’m sure he’d complain about my music, my dog, my bike, my plants, my smile, my shoes and maybe even my sunglasses.

    1. We clearly need to increase the supply of housing of all types. It’s reassuring to see neighborhood groups working toward a compromise.

    2. Nah, we’ve got third generation Mission neighbors who are anything but bourgeois white people and we get along just fine, thanks.

      “We” don’t need new housing of “every” kind, thanks. Banksters, developers, their attorneys, consultants and the politicians they purchase need a constant stream of luxury condos as heroin to keep the fix going.

      1. Marcos, do you think infill/high density city design is a good idea? How does this proposed project fit-or not fit- in with that?
        I’m asking this as a serious question…totally not trying to get a rise out of you.

        1. No. Infill high density with less parking is a scam because lack of local and regional rapid reliable transit means these new residents will need to drive if and when their jobs are not in San Francisco. Transit is being disinvested right now and that is only going to make matters worse. So long as it takes 90 min or more each way on transit for a car trip that takes 45, people who are making enough to service those notes will drive to work. TOD is a sham without regional transit investment because job sites are scattered and transit service is insufficient.

          San Francisco is not NYC. Where there are heights, here there is wind and shade. San Francisco’s climate makes the streetscape very unpleasant under those circumstances. If you like 10th and Market, then that is what the Eastern Neighborhoods will feel like after the developers are through with it.

          The Mission is a neighborhood that works as designed, with 45′ heights and buildings that were largely build a century ago and were built to last. The new construction is crappy in design and will probably only last 50 years before crumbling.

          Boosters promote “vibrancy,” but what that means in practice is more people than live here now, only with higher disposable income. That is cultural clearcutting at its worst.

          1. This is very interesting. I tend to support infill as I understand it, mostly because the presence of sprawl in rural California is so distressing to me- the loss of habitat, the impacts that single car transportation tend to have on land usage, air and water quality, the degradation of land..all that. I’ve lived in CA my whole life and seen lovely riparian environments get plowed under…unbelievably sad to see that…
            But I have mixed feelings about more people in the Mission.
            It’s true that rapid transit isn’t exactly taking off the way it should. MUNI and BART are raising prices, CalTrain seems cumbersome and the bevy of municipal shuttles or bus systems that might efficiently ferry people back and forth between CalTrain and BART stops seem to be a pipe-dream(not counting the Google Shuttle.

            It’s sure is a drag. I would love infill IF transit systems were in place to support it…and would fear density less if behaviors in cities changed.

            According to a friend of mine involved with land usage in Santa Clara, noise is a huge factor(that and schools for their children)that people decide to leave the city. An entertainment district, which is what the Mission is rapidly becoming, doesn’t feel compatible with density goals.

            And yeah- The wind tunnel effect? Can be romantic or a total pain in the ass, depending on my mood..or if I’m on a bike.

          2. There is no evidence, zero, zip, nada, that infill development in San Francisco competes with exurban sprawl. The disparate price points should be sufficient to dispatch that notion summarily.

        1. Do you find it racist that people from divergent back grounds get along just fine? It seems that the racism is with newcomers who want to recast the neighborhood in their tighter, whiter and suburban-safe image?

  6. The same lame community groups that serve as insulation for corporate San Francisco from popular demands for change get $800K to continue clearing the way for corporate dominance over our communities.

    The land dedication will require additional resources to construct affordable housing, so the developer contribution will practically be less than the 40 affordable units that the site is zoned for.

    The nonprofits have sold out the Mission with the Eastern Neighborhood plan. Many long time Mission residents know that development is WORSE now than it was before EN. Did the nonprofiteers bother to organize the community to demand something different in 2008?

    Of course not, they were threatened with being cut out of the public feeding trough unless they played ball so they dutifully sold out the neighborhood for their own narrow self interest.

    I doubt that more than half of the employees of these nonprofits even live in San Francisco, in the Mission. And there is no provision in the nonprofit governance model for residents to have any formal influence over these entities that are granted the power to speak for us.

    This is yet another speculative asset bubble land grab, and our nonprofiteers are taking the money to let neoliberal tea party economics flourish in San Francisco.

    1. Is there any solution that makes you happy, then? All you’ve done is bitch and complain on every comment to this thread.

      This represents opportunity for the Mission, even if it isn’t being served to you on the perfect silver platter you desire.

      Honest opinion from an outsider looking in: you clearly suck at handling anything that puts you outside of your comfort zone (in this case, the inevitable, slow evolution that is just life). Grow up.

      1. Call me old fashioned, but I want for the difference to be split evenly, 50/50 between the developer and the community.

        Is that really so much to ask for granting a significant discretionary public entitlement these days?

        Does it only take a sliver of profit thrown at nonprofits to leverage that kind of windfall and shift attendant costs onto the community at large?

    2. Thank you marcos for your lucid comment. Lots of people don’t like “complainers” when the complainers confront them with some disturbing reality. Most readers here (and editors?) seem to want to live in a sanitized yuppy playground. And they’d rather poor folks (and their problems!) just move elsewhere. Thanks for keeping it real.