Supervisor David Campos has called for a temporary halt to the construction of market-rate housing around the 24th Street corridor in the Mission District, saying the effects of market-rate development on the displacement of Latino businesses and residents should be studied before projects are allowed to move forward.
In a letter sent to the Planning Commission on Wednesday, Campos urged commissioners to delay all projects in the Latino Cultural District, which is bounded by Potrero Avenue and Mission Street between 22nd and Cesar Chavez streets.
Campos singled out for delay three housing developments planned for the Mission District that would would bring in 293 units of mostly market-rate housing in the next few years. All three are being opposed by neighborhood activists, who say they would worsen gentrification in the district.
“These and several market-rate projects in and next to the cultural district could transform the district and threaten to displace long-time residents, businesses, and non-profits,” Campos wrote. “The Planning Department should consider the impacts of these projects on the Latino Cultural District and develop measures that will mitigate those impacts.”
That area was designated a “Latino cultural and commercial district” by San Francisco in 2014, a largely symbolic proclamation. Calle 24, the neighborhood and merchants association, hoped that designation would lead to construction guidelines down the road with more legal standing.
Now, Campos and others are acting on those wishes, crafting legislation that will be introduced to the Board of Supervisors later this year to specify the kinds of development that should be allowed in the neighborhood.
Campos wants the Planning Department to study the effects of market-rate housing on the district, specifying the potential effects on neighborhood businesses, residential displacement, rental affordability, and “the Latino community.”
Until that happens, he and others think there should be no market-rate development in the cultural district.
“It’s a halt to any project until we have a better understanding of what impact it will have on the Latino Cultural District,” he said.
The Latino Cultural District does not have any specific development guidelines, so projects proposed there need only abide by the city’s zoning rules to gain approval.
But Mission District activists routinely oppose market-rate housing throughout the neighborhood and delay projects, a tactic that often pushes developers into providing higher percentages of affordable housing and other concessions.
Now, activists are working on preserving the cultural district in particular, saying it is threatened by the displacement of Latinos and the influx of wealthier, whiter residents since the second tech boom. The market-rate housing coming to the neighborhood, they say, does not contain sufficient levels of affordable housing aimed at the area’s neediest.
A survey of the area in 2011 by Calle 24 showed that almost 60 percent of the buildings along the 24th Street corridor were Latino-owned.
“The developers are trying to rush and we’re trying to slow it down because we’re still in [the planning] process,” said Erick Arguello, the president of Calle 24.
Calle 24 has consistently opposed projects in the Latino Cultural District, the most recent the so-called “Titanic Mess on South Van Ness” at 1515 South Van Ness Ave. on the corner of 26th Street and South Van Ness Avenue. The 157-unit development is the largest project of an estimated 665 housing units that Arguello said are planned for the area.
He and others spoke with Campos before the latter drafted his letter to the Planning Commission and expressed their support for the pause.
“They are afraid that if all these projects are approved, it might be too late in terms of preserving the Latino Cultural District,” Campos said, adding that he spoke to members of the Planning Commission who also expressed their support. He declined to name which commissioners supported his proposal, however.
Standards Needed for Mission District
For a developer, the uncertainty involved in building in the Mission District has frustrated negotiations with community activists.
At a Thursday hearing before the Planning Commission, Planning Director John Rahaim said it was incumbent upon activists to set clear standards for development in the Mission District.
“The community must come to the table with some specific, tangible, do-able requests,” he said. Asking for even 50 percent affordable housing on-site is impossible, he said, and activists should set realistic goals before entering into negotiations with developers.
Supervisor Campos, for his part, agreed. He said that after a study was done, Mission District groups would have a better idea what levels of affordability were needed in the district, for example.
Campos guessed that the study could take one to two months. The Planning Department did not return requests for comment on whether they would undertake the study or how long it might take.
Three Mission District housing projects would be immediately affected if the Planning Commission heeds the supervisor’s letter. One was already delayed last Thursday when the Planning Commission voted to consider the project for approval two months later.
Projects Facing Delay
That project is a 117-unit development at 2675 Folsom St. on the corner of 23rd and Folsom streets. Current plans call for 17 below-market-rate units on site, though the developer said on Thursday that could go up to some 23 units — or 20 percent of the total.
The project would rise to four stories next to the Parque Niños Unidos and would have a small light industrial space on the ground-floor. It was continued until September 22 for consideration by the Planning Commission.
In deciding whether or not to delay, commissioners referred to Campos’s letter but said they were taking the project’s merits on its own and that they have disregarded a supervisor’s calls for delays in the past.
The commission has delayed projects in the Mission District before. A 335-unit project at 2070 Bryant St., a block-wide development between 18th and 19th streets, was postponed for two weeks before finally being approved to allow for negotiations between activists and the developer.
Such projects sometimes return to the commission with higher percentages of affordable housing, and Arguello hoped to do the same with the three projects coming to the Latino Cultural District.
“We’re going to have to deal with them one at a time,” Arguello said of the projects. He said he was not convinced that the commissioners would heed Campos’s letter, and that activists would have to oppose them — and negotiate with developers — piecemeal.
The other two projects coming to the Latino Cultural District go before before the commission this Thursday, August 11. The first is the development at 1515 South Van Ness Ave, and the second is a small 19-unit development at 2600 Harrison St. on the corner of Harrison and 22nd streets.
That project would replace a shuttered Western Plywood warehouse and would rise to four stories with no affordable units, its developers opting to pay an in-lieu fee to the city instead.