After a last-minute vote by the Planning Commission on Thursday postponed consideration of the largest housing development planned for the Mission District, opponents of the project are scrambling to put together an alternative that would increase the amount of affordable housing on-site — and say they will put millions of dollars into the deal.
“I’ve been approached by several people who can come up with up a million dollars each,” said Spike Kahn, one of the principal opponents of the so-called “Beast on Bryant,” a 335-unit development planned for Bryant Street.
Opponents hope that half the site will be reserved for affordable housing, which they want built at the same time as the market-rate units on the site. They also want union labor used on the project, and the 1-1 replacement of some 50,000 square feet of arts and light industrial space known as PDR — production, distribution, and repair — that used to be on the block.
Podell’s proposal calls for one third of the site to go to the city for affordable housing, and plans some 11,000 square feet of PDR — most of which would be built by the city.
Because the affordable housing would be built and financed by the city, activists believe it will be close to a decade before those units come online. If they can raise funds on their own, they hope to expedite that process with even more below-market-rate units.
Kahn said she has been in contact with wealthy friends in tech who are “interested in doing the right thing” and willing to contribute funds. Earlier this year, Kahn raised $200,000 in a day to buy the former home of Precita Eyes Muralists, which housed four rent-controlled tenants. That building was transferred to non-profit control and is now permanent affordable housing.
Josh Arce, a liaison for the construction union Local 261 and candidate for District Nine supervisor, said his union “would like to work with the community and developer to identify the additional funds” needed to bump up the affordable housing component of the project.
Arce declined to say where those funds would come from — and how much money, if any, the union would be willing to invest. It would be premature to release specifics before sitting down with the developer, he said.
Kahn said there is a potential for $5 million in funding from various labor groups and that a meeting between Podell, community activists, labor unions, and the mayor’s office was planned for early next week.
Kahn would raise another $5 million from her community contacts, she said.
This deal, however, is orders of magnitude larger than what Kahn pulled off with Precita Eyes and would need to be put together in just two weeks, since the Planning Commission is set to hear the project for an up-or-down vote on June 2.
“I don’t want to have to to scramble within two weeks to come up with $5 million, but I’m more than willing to work together [to find funding],” Kahn said.
2000–2070 Bryant St.
The project — located on Bryant Street between 18th and 19th — is the largest housing development currently planned for the Mission District, with 335 units. The 1979 Mission St. project at 16th and Mission falls just short of that, at 331 units.
It would also have the largest component of affordable housing on-site of any of the projects coming to the neighborhood after the developer, Nick Podell, dedicated a third of the total site land to the city to fulfill his affordable housing requirement earlier this year.
The majority of the site would house a six-story, 196-unit market-rate building — plus three below-market-rate units — at 2000 Bryant St. Podell would dedicate 34 percent of the total site to the city for an eight-story, 136-unit affordable building next door at 2070 Bryant St.
The two buildings would be separated by a 25-foot wide public alleyway running through the block.
But because that affordable housing site would be financed and built by the city, opponents doubled down earlier this year and released an alternative proposal and set of demands. They asked Podell to dedicate half his site to the city instead, and to identify funds that could be used to ensure the affordable site comes online at the same time as the market-rate one.
Opponents say the land dedication shifts responsibility for the affordable housing onto the taxpayers, and point to years-long delays in other land dedications as evidence that the affordable site would go online long after the market-rate one.
The Mayor’s Office of Housing said earlier this year that public funding is available to develop the affordable site and that it could take just three and a half years to finish its construction.
Evette Davis, a spokesperson for Podell, said the developer had not seen the alternative proposal. Opponents of the project say they emailed a copy to the developer earlier this year.
Before the Planning Commission hearing, Davis said Podell was planning to go forward with his current proposal, but on Thursday, Davis said she did not know whether or how the project may change in the coming days. Podell declined to comment on the upcoming negotiations.
Show Us Your Books
After the Planning Commission’s delay — which Davis said came at the request of the mayor’s office — Kahn and other opponents are hoping Podell will open up his books and reveal his expected profit margin from the development. That, they say, will determine whether Podell needs additional financing to up the affordable housing on-site.
“[Podell’s] response has been, ‘We can’t afford it,’ and we said, ‘Well, show us your books,’” said Kahn. “If it turns out he actually can’t do better, we have other funding available to help make this a more affordable project.”
“We’re looking for 10,000 more square feet, we’re not asking for that much,” she added. The site is 70,000 square feet in total — 41,200 for the market-rate site, 23,800 for the affordable site, and 5,000 for the public alleyway.
Podell said earlier this year that his personal profit from the project would be just 5.8 percent for his first year’s rents, not taking into account the return on investment for his principal funder, Junius Real Estate Partners, the real estate investment arm of J.P. Morgan Chase.
Junius Real Estate Partners did not respond to requests for comment.
Whether Podell opens up his financing remains to be seen. If a deal is worked out, it could set a precedent for market-rate development in the Mission District, which is routinely opposed by community activists for contributing to gentrification in the neighborhood.
Kahn, for one, was somewhat hopeful.
“All we have to do is get a table to begin the discussion,” she said.