A building at 20th and Valencia Street. Photo by Daniel Hirsch.

When Supervisor David Campos announced potential plans to push for a moratorium on new market rate construction in the Mission last week, partisans on every side of the housing debate shot back with their opinions.

“New market-rate housing also pays for affordable housing. Stopping construction will only exacerbate the problem,” said the pro-development group Housing Action Coalition following the news of a possible moratorium.

“When you put new market-rate housing in a vulnerable, low-income community you threaten the fabric of that community,” wrote Tim Redmond in a blog post on 48Hills. “Luxury housing isn’t compatible with community-based small businesses, nonprofits and low-cost restaurants that cater to a working-class clientele.”

Campos’ yet to be drafted measure, advocated for by the Calle 24 Merchants Association, is still in development. Its aim, however, would be to slow down market rate construction in the Mission and fast track affordable housing projects. Advocates of the moratorium argue that it is a legislative means of enforcing the goals of the recently established Latino Cultural District along the 24th Street corridor – to preserve its cultural fabric.

To get a pulse of what the neighborhood thinks of all the proposed construction and subsequent plans to slow it down, Mission Local talked to residents and workers in one stretch of the newly established Latino Cultural District.

Of the roughly two dozen residents and business owners who spoke with Mission Local, most showed some ambivalence about all the changes in the area. Of the 22 people we talked to, most (10 people) said they were against all the new construction—though several of those couldn’t commit an opinion about a potential moratorium. Four people said they’d support any new construction, another eight were somewhere in the middle—ambivalent about the new construction, but aware that more housing is needed.

You can read more of their comments by navigating the interactive map below.

By Mission Local’s estimation, there’s roughly 40 different projects proposed or under construction in the Mission. If they all get built, it would add an additional 1,900 units of new housing – of those, about 200 are intended to be below market rate.

“It’s not good for people who live in this area. They’re making expensive condos, but most people can’t pay to live in them,” said Marta Espinoza, a waitress at Sun Rise Restaurant. “People who live here have to leave.”

Even those who said they weren’t in favor of a moratorium on construction expressed dislike for the neighbor’s new buildings.

“All that stuff that’s nasty, and crappily built and super expensive, it’s going to be rundown in 20 year,” said Chris Dixon, owner of Explorist International. “But moratorium seems like too much.”

Along the 24th Street corridor, between Valencia and Folsom, there’s nearly seven projects in the works. Two of them, one on 26th and South Van Ness and another on 23rd and Folsom, would be considerably large projects for the low-slung neighborhood, creating over 100 units each.

“We have these beautiful streets, trees, flowers. I don’t want big buildings like downtown,” said Denise Gonzalez, owner of Luz de Luna.

Twee Goule, an employee at Delicateses La Plaza, said she’d be eager to see the proposed 115 unit apartment to get built across the street from her work at the current location of Charyn Restaurant Auction.

“They should build more, when more competition grows price will go down. If we have more apartments there will be less pressure on market,” said Goule.

Regarding creating more supply in a housing shortage, several people we talked to understood this calculation, but said the only apartments getting built were over-priced for most people in the neighborhood.

“It’s just one specific demographic that gets served,” said Craig Zaretsky, owner of Campfire Gallery, and a 20 year resident of San Francisco. “It doesn’t support a broader range of people, it limits diversity, when you get these big developments.”

Jimmy Dominguez, a Bay Area native who has lived in San Francisco for 10 years, summarized the arguments as such: “Rents aren’t going to go down unless there’s more construction, but it sucks. It feels like your neighborhood is going away.”

(Click on the icons for more information and opinions. Orange represents people opposed to more development. Green represents those who are willing to have more construction in the Mission. Blue are those whose opinions lie somewhere in the middle. Building icons represent potential new housing projects.)

What exactly would a moratorium look like?

In a statement and petition released by Calle 24 late last week, the group asks specifically to place interim controls on the Latino Cultural District that the Mayor’s Office signed into existence last year. Such controls would temporarily halt market rate projects in the area to slow down the district’s changing landscape.

The Latino Cultural District, which officially includes the area from 22nd Street to Cesar Chavez between Mission and Potrero, was established by the Board of Supervisors and Mayor in May 2014 to mark the historic and cultural impact of the area.

But the legislation didn’t do much else. This is why Erick Arguello, president of Calle 24, is pushing for zoning controls to limit development and preserve the character of the neighborhood the cultural district designation recognizes.

“This would be to create controls like another other neighborhoods have here in city,” said Arguello, citing Chinatown and Japantown as examples.

In addition to calling for moratorium on market-rate housing in the area and prioritization of affordable housing, Calle24 is also calling on the city to enact controls to protect the commercial balance of 24th Street. Arguello says that the balance is skewed towards high-end restaurants that hurt small businesses.

Arguello says that the details of what the legislation will be still need to be worked out, but overall the petition is about “assuring that community itself has a voice in what happens in this neighborhood.”

For his part, Supervisor David Campos said he has yet to make a commitment to any specific policy, though he said the request of Calle24, “looks reasonable,” and given what he sees as a serious crisis, “anything and everything is on the table.”

Andrea Valencia contributed additional reporting for this story.

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Daniel Hirsch is a freelance writer who has been living in the Mission since 2009. When he's not contributing to Mission Local, he's writing plays, working as an extra for HBO, and/or walking to the top of Bernal Hill.

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5 Comments

  1. The answer is yes, there is too much development happening in the Mission.

    But rather than a moratorium, IMHO, only allow the projects that receive broad consensus as being among the best. And, accept as a fact of live, that to keep the community soul and prevent inappropriate buildings – that some development will takes longer.

  2. “Of the 22 people we talked to, most (10 people) said they were against all the new construction” Most is defined as more than 50% so that would be 12 or more our of 22.

    What would be really interesting is if you could do a report on what is costs to build housing. Maybe find an empty or abandoned lot/building, and find out what it would cost to develop that building into housing. The least expensive way possible. This way people can have an idea of what it actually costs to build housing in the mission district. Not luxury condos, but regular low market rate housing you seem to always be asking for in these articles.

    I think it would be good to know the lowest break even point for a developer. Can they build a 10 unit building where the 1 bedrooms are only 400K and 2 bedrooms are 550K or 600K?

    The basic point would be to find out if this is possible. Is the reason luxury condos are the only thing being developed because luxury condos are the only thing that allows the developers to break even? Could a developer make a small profit or break even but putting up low market rate housing? How do we find out this information?

  3. The idea that rents will go down if we build more luxury condos (and “luxury” is what they are when they sell for $1+ million) just isn’t supported by the facts. People keep repeating this mantra as if it were common sense, and repetition has a funny way of making something into “common sense.” Building 1,700 luxury condos in the Mission will only accelerate transition of the neighborhood, fueling the escalation of property values, rents and ultimately displacement through “legal” and illegal evictions.

  4. A property is worth what somebody is willing to pay for it. The LAW of supply and demand is stronger than gravity. Any empty apartment in the mission is a luxury. It is unfortunate that some of us can no longer afford to live here but a moratorium on new housing is in no way going to make the remaining available rentals cheaper than they currently are. To believe that suddenly there will no longer be a demand to live in this neighborhood is nothing more than wishful thinking.

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