“How do we actually build affordable housing in this neighborhood?” asked Supervisor David Campos.
If it appears to be a question that Campos should know the answer to – he doesn’t and neither does Mayor Ed Lee because as everyone in San Francisco knows by now, the pace of building affordable housing is far slower than the pace of building market rate housing. So, Campos and the Mission Economic Development Agency, known as MEDA, are taking the question to the community. The reason is two fold – to get feedback and to get the community to be more responsible for solutions, organizers said.
“We’re trying to get a unifying community voice,” said Karoleen Feng, the Director of Community Real Estate with MEDA who is leading up the ambitious Mission Action Plan 2020 – a neighborhood-created action plan for housing and jobs at every income level.
At a recent meeting at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, MEDA Executive Director Luis Granados, Supervisor David Campos and city planning officials heard from the about 75 community participants separated into ten focus groups. Yes, they agreed, the Mission needs more affordable housing units. They also seemed to agree that a moratorium on market-rate housing and evictions are two ways to spur affordable housing development. So, regardless that it’s unlikely that the Board of Supervisors will approve Campos’s proposal for a 45-day moratorium, he and others are building support for an idea that could become an election issue in the fall.
Moreover, the community had other ideas as well.
Ask Mission resident Mark Zuckerberg for help with funding a new development, one resident suggested, noting, “He gave $80 million to SF General.” (Zuckerberg gave $75 million to the hospital in February.)
Feng said this is a real possibility. MEDA and city officials say they have been in talks with tech companies about help with funding affordable housing here and elsewhere.
Other suggestions from attendees were to vote in a bond to raise the funds needed for affordable housing units and protections for small businesses, such as rent-control and legal aid for negotiations with landlords.
But some ideas will not make the cut said Feng, “Make the whole neighborhood affordable housing — that is not going to happen.”
Feng says that MEDA doesn’t expect a solution to the housing crisis to come solely from the community. “That’s exactly why we are doing the meetings with the city, the mayor, and the Supervisor. We need full access to all tools.”
The ideas will be compiled by MEDA, the Dolores Street Community Services, and the city into a list of strategies and their feasibilities, and copies of the strategic plan will be submitted to the Planning Department, the Mayor’s office, and reviewed at the next community meeting on June 24.
City planner Claudia Flores invited attendees to return to another meeting in two months.
“Two months is too long!” said Vidal Gonzales. Flores responded saying that some projects were already underway, and Gonzales shot back, “If there’s things underway now, then we need a meeting much sooner, don’t you think?”
“[This meeting] is effective if they follow-up,” said Gonzales, who has lived in the Mission for six years.
“Otherwise you’re just redefining the problem and redefining the problem,” said Gonzales. “We know what the problem is.”
Gonzales said he came to the meeting because he heard that City Planning Department staff would be there. “If they’re bringing in people from the city, they’re serious.”
Gonzales said it’s frustrating to know that housing prices have risen so much, that even people with college degrees can’t afford the city. “You could go to college, get a degree, have a career, but you still can’t afford to live here unless you’re a millionaire,” said Gonzales who recently got a Bachelor’s degree in Management.
Campos seemed to echo the sentiment, “It’s not just the housing crisis that we have, we have an inequality crisis. San Francisco has the fastest growing inequality of any major city in this country.”