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If anyone feared that activism was dead, that the 99 percent had rolled over and died, they need not.  More than 200 residents including small business owners and tenants listened Thursday evening to the 16th Street Plaza Coalition demand that the Maximus Partners abandon its proposal to put up 350 market-rate units at 16th and Mission. Instead, the organizers said, the developers should hand the property over to the community.

“This is not because we don’t like development it is because it is the kind of building they are trying to build,” said Maria Zamudio, a housing rights organizer from Causa Justa/Just Cause, a non-profit that helps tenants fight evictions and deal with landlord harassment.

Zamudio led the group – mixed by age and ethnicity – through a power point on the proposed 10-story development that would top the US Bank building on Mission and 22nd streets by one story.

One of the group’s aims, she said, is to get the city to revisit the Plan Popular or People’s Plan developed in 2006 by the Mission Antidisplacement Coalition.  That plan envisions much greater community involvement and consideration. A pdf of Part 1, Land Use and Economic Development is here.

Zamudio said the retail stores going into the development are unlikely to serve the community already there and that the development will put the Marshall Elementary School’s playground in the shade for five months of the year.  A smaller Marshall school group that met after an open mike session was closed to the press.

During the open mike session, Mike Mataraza, an author and executive coach, pointed out that the developers – like others before Maximus – were trying to make a profit and that he too was interested in helping people get a fair deal. The audience booed.

“They are not going to end capitalism in the next year,”  Mataraza said, which elicited more boos.   He kept trying.  Enough, said the crowd.

The audience at the Victoria Theater. Photo by Lydia Chávez

The audience at the Victoria Theater. Photo by Lydia Chávez

One of the organizers reminded Mataraza that “people just aren’t motivated by profit.”

“They came here to make a living, they were born here,” he said. “Not everyone came here to make a profit.”

That, it appeared, was true of many of those gathered Thursday night. Some, however, appeared skeptical. Price Cobbs, a 56-year-old accountant who lives in a rent controlled apartment, said he wondered if it wasn’t just all “part of a cycle” and tough to stop.

But Thursday’s event made it clear that the the Plaza16 coalition will give it a try and announced tentative plans to meet with the developers on June 19th. There will also be an event at the plaza on June 14th.

The coalition and other groups have pointed at the slow pace at which the city is building affordable housing and its contention that the city is changing rapidly is refuted by no one.  More market rate housing, means the city’s demographics will become wealthier.

The Coalition 16 group also charged that in the guise of the  “Clean up the Plaza” campaign, that police should stop harassing and criminalizing  low income people and people of color that use the pubic space at the 16th Street BART plaza.

That charge stood in stark contrast to a fall meeting of the Clean up the Plaza group in which business owners and representatives from Marshall school pleaded with police, BART and city social service agencies to do something about the criminal activity at the plaza.

Representatives from that group could not be reached for comment, but are welcome to e-mail us at missionlocal@gmail.

Comments are also welcome – but we must restrict comments to one comment and one reply per person.