In a familiar scene Monday night, neighborhood activists gathered at a presentation by a developer of a new project in the Mission. The former didn’t like what the latter had to offer—namely, too much market rate housing and too little below market housing. Too bad, responded the latter in more or less words.
“Tonight was about becoming familiar with the project, if you’re walking through the door looking for some big controversy I’m not going to have it,” said Joe Toboni the project’s sponsor, who added that he’s lived in San Francisco his whole life.
The specifics of this scene: a 27-unit rental project at 17th and South Van Ness developed by the Toboni Group for that corner’s currently vacant lot. The group of about ten neighborhood activists at Monday’s meeting oppose the project at 600 South Van Ness because it doesn’t have enough below market rate housing. If approved by the Planning Commission, it will pay about $2 million of in-lieu fees to the city’s housing funds rather than build on-site affordable housing.
“At this time in the Mission we don’t need anything like that – Who’s going to be able to afford it,” asked one woman at Monday’s meeting held at the Mission Vocational School.
“I know things have gone down in the Mission, I know there’s a lot of out of town developers, but don’t put that all on me,” said Toboni.
With 600 South Van Ness set to go before the Planning Commission at the end of this month, its sponsors weren’t there to hear feedback but to appease activist complaints of inadequate outreach. Toboni and his lawyer Steve Vettel said they had done their required outreach years ago as part of the plan’s preliminary project assessment in 2013, but the activists wanted more.
“I asked that this meeting get scheduled because the Planning Department isn’t doing its part in notifying neighbors about these projects,” said Eddie Stiel, who said the 300 feet radius of neighbors that receive notifications about new projects isn’t sufficient. “These are big projects that affect the whole neighborhood.”
“This is a sham!” shouted some one during the course of the meeting.
In a neighborhood that’s filled with new, large-scale developments the $2 million dollars—which is enough to subsidize eight below market units with $250,000 per unit—didn’t feel like much, activists said.
“There’s just too much market-rate development, and its cumulative effect is making the neighborhood unaffordable,” said Erick Arguello, president of Calle 24 Latino District. “The reason people are so frustrated is that this system designed years ago isn’t functioning. The money you’re giving city isn’t going anywhere.”
The Mission has three sites that have been slated to be developed as affordable housing with city funds that have remained in limbo for years.
“I’m taking all that to heart, but it’s just too late for this project,” said Toboni.
Vettel explained that the Mayor’s Office of Housing said they’d prefer in-lieu fees for this project, because more units could be built with that money then the small percentage that would be built on-site under city requirements—about four.
After several minutes of back and forth about the lack of affordable housing in the neighborhood and the developers inability to create more on-site units at 600 South Van Ness, Toboni said the meeting was over. Several lingered to complain about the faults of a system that keeps yielding the same results.
As neighbors began filing out, Toboni said he thought that the meeting went just okay.
“I don’t think it’s positive to have these town hall style meetings, people are all stoked up,” he said. “I personally think a lot of these people’s beef is with the mayor’s office. Tens of millions in developer fees have gone to city and affordable housing projects aren’t getting built.”
600 South Van Ness heads to the Planning Commission April 30th.
Update 4/24: The Planning Commission has continued deliberations on 600 South Van Ness, it will now be hearing the issue on May 21.
For more on the latest in the ongoing housing story, and predict which development will stoke a fight. Check out our page Housing Watch.