A proposed six-story, 328-unit housing project on Bryant Street drew more opposition on Thursday after a press conference called by construction union Local 261 demanded significant changes to the Mission District housing project.
A group of union workers, supervisorial candidates, and local activists spoke outside of 2000 Bryant St. — the so-called “Beast on Bryant” — to demand more affordable housing on-site, replacement all of the manufacturing space currently on the block, and the use union jobs in the construction of the project.
The current project would replace a block of former industrial, arts, and restaurant spaces with two housing towers. At one site — built and financed by developer Nick Podell — 196 market-rate units and three below-market-rate ones are planned.
At the other, 129 fully affordable units would be built and financed by the city on land provided by Podell.
That land dedication — which is about 40 percent of the total project units — wasn’t enough for speakers on Thursday, who called for 50 percent of the units produced on-site to be affordable.
“Building a better Beast is about building more affordable housing for all of us,” said Josh Arce, who works as a liaison for Local 261 and is a leader of the newest opposition.
Speakers also called for 1-1 replacement of PDR space — which is production, distribution, and repair — after data released by the Planning Department on Thursday showed a rapid loss such space in the Mission District and other neighborhoods. The project as currently envisioned goes from 50,000 square feet of PDR to 11,000 across both sites.
The Bryant Street development is becoming a talking point in the local supervisorial race. Two candidates for District 9 supervisor — Arce and Iswari España — spoke at the press conference about the need for more affordable housing in the Mission District.
España, a job training officer with the Human Services Agency, has been supportive of a changed project for weeks. He and Arce have frequently attended brainstorming meetings held in the last few weeks to create an alternative proposal for the project.
After being introduced by Arce on Thursday, España spoke to broad themes of gentrification and development in the Mission District.
“We’re tired by all the different folks coming in from the outside and not listening to us,” he said.
None of the candidates for District 9 supervisor supported the project as of late March, as they told Mission Local then. Hillary Ronen, currently the chief of staff to Supervisor David Campos, said then that she believes “a fair deal for the developer community, and residents is around the corner” and that she would support that deal when it is reached.
The Podell development has faced heavy opposition since mid-2015, when the Beast joined the Monster and other market-rate housing developments as a targets for Mission District activists reacting to gentrification in the neighborhood.
As a result of that opposition, Podell delayed the project for several months and then increased the amount of affordable housing on-site from 44 to 129 units through a land dedication — one of the options available to him to fulfill his affordable housing requirement under city law.
That move did not please critics, who pointed out that the city would be on the hook to pay for those 129 units, if not the land underneath them. Delays in prior land dedication projects also indicate that the affordable units might not be built until years after the market-rate development.
The Mayor’s Office of Housing said it was supportive of the land dedication option because it proffered more affordable units for a cheaper price than if the city tried to buy land on its own.
On Thursday, Eddie Stiel — a Mission District resident and frequent sight at housing meetings — decried Podell’s approach as “development of affordable housing that doesn’t provide affordable housing.”
Spike Kahn, founder of the arts space the Pacific Felt Factory and long-time opponent of the Bryant Street project, lauded the alliance between labor and other opponents and said Podell has not worked with the neighborhood closely enough.
“The neighbors are pissed off,” she said.
Evette Davis, a spokesperson for Podell, said Podell has met with opponents multiple times and would do so again, and said the land dedication option gives the city a fully affordable, shovel-ready housing project.
Davis also said that the list of what is expected of Podell keeps growing and that Podell currently plans to go forward with the project as envisioned.