Resistance to a proposed housing complex on Bryant Street was unyielding at a Wednesday night community meeting, at which opponents demanded that the developer reveal his expected profit from the project — which the developer said would be slim.
“This is the lowest yield I’ve ever gotten,” said Nick Podell, the man behind 2000 Bryant St., a market-rate housing project that has been delayed for months due to opposition from Mission District groups.
The development will span two sites. At 2000 Bryant St., 196 market-rate units and three below-market-rate units are planned. At the adjacent 2070 Bryant St., the developer will dedicate land on which the city can build 129 affordable units. That move was criticized last month for shifting the burden of construction onto the city.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Podell said he expected a 5.8 percent return on investment from the first year of collecting rents, not taking into account the return for Junius Real Estate Partners, an arm of J.P. Morgan Chase that is funding the project.
“We’ve heard 30 percent, you’re lying!” shouted Laura Guzman, director of homeless services at the Mission Neighborhood Resource Center.
“Show us your books!” piped up Karl Beitel, a local activist and author.
Podell declined, growing increasingly frustrated with a crowd that repeatedly called for him to build 100 percent affordable housing on-site or no housing at all.
“I’ve listened to everyone’s complete lack of understanding for how housing gets built —” he started, before being cut off by jeers from the audience.
“Hey, hey!” shouted Eddie Stiel, a frequent presence at housing meetings. Stiel stood up, waved his arms, and yelled “I’m stupid!” in an imitation of what he believed Podell thought.
Tensions were further exacerbated at the meeting by a lack of Spanish translation, which was given ad hoc by Maria Zamudio of Causa Justa instead. That drew complaints from those sitting nearby that they could not hear the presentation, prompting more frustration.
“This is a total disrespect to our community,” said Jim Salinas, a former labor leader and planning commissioner.
Evette Davis, a spokesperson for Podell, took responsibility for the mistake and said she would be more than happy to host another meeting for the Spanish speakers.
The Bryant Street development has faced strong opposition since last year. It was grouped with the so-called “Monster in the Mission” at 16th and Mission and given its own moniker then, the “Beast on Bryant.”
That opposition has remained strong, despite attempts by Podell to appease opponents. His land dedication — a means of fulfilling his affordable housing requirement — bumped up the number of affordable units to be built on-site from 44 to 129. That move pleased the Mayor’s Office of Housing because it increased the total number of affordable units on-site.
But it failed to impress those in the room on Wednesday because even with the land, the city would be required to finance the construction of those affordable units to the tune of some $31 million.
That process would likely mean the affordable housing site would go up several years after the market-rate one, another point of contention. Land dedications have occurred just twice in San Francisco before — at 1296 Shotwell St. and 801 Brannan St. — and resulted in years-long delays both times.
The Shotwell site was a dedication from the developers of Vida Apartments given to the city in 2013, with construction from non-profit developers scheduled to finish by 2019 — four years after Vida opened up to tenants.
“So we’re going to be waiting eight plus years from when the luxury condos are approved before we get our community project?” asked Stiel.
Mara Blitzer from the Mayor’s Office of Housing said the affordable housing could be built faster because it would be entitled, meaning it could skip an environmental review process that can span two years. She said it would take about six months to find a non-profit developer and another two to three years to build after that.
A fully-entitled project is also slated for 490 South Van Ness, however, and that has sat vacant for eight months, with non-profit developers waiting to hear back from the city on their submitted building proposals.
Equally important to those in the crowd on Wednesday was the loss of so-called PDR space, which stands for “production, distribution, and repair” and is a widely used zoning in the eastern Mission District meant for light industrial and artist space.
Previous tenants of the building — including an auto shop, arts space, and theater prop shop — made use of some 50,000 square feet of PDR. In the proposed project, that has been reduced to 11,000 square feet — and the majority of that is on the affordable housing site.
The 80 percent decrease in PDR on the block was a major sticking point in a neighborhood that has seen large swaths of PDR space lost to office and housing.
“What we’re seeing is a big loss of blue-collar jobs and artists space,” said Jonathan Youtt, a founding member of Cellspace, an arts organization previously in the building. Youtt said he would back height increases on housing — if it meant PDR on the ground floor.
“Housing above, but keep 1-1 PDR below,” he said.
Whether the meeting had any effect on the ultimate design remains to be seen. Davis said the team would have to “sort out what happened today and talk about it” before moving forward.
The development is already scheduled to go before the Planning Commission on May 19, however, where it will likely face more resistance.