A controversial, frequently delayed housing project on Bryant Street was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, but still faces one last hurdle on Wednesday when it comes before another city panel for a hearing.
“I believe that on balance, this neighborhood is better off having this project approved than not,” said Supervisor David Campos of the proposed 330-unit at 2000–2070 Bryant St. The project has been delayed for years and would involve a split site with two buildings. It would have 191 units of market-rate housing and 139 units of below-market rate housing total.
“The question for me is: Can we afford to say no to as many as 139 units of affordable housing? I don’t believe we can,” Campos said.
During public comment before the Board of Supervisors, opponents of the project repeated what has become a mantra in hearings on market-rate housing projects in the Mission District: the project will exacerbate gentrification and lead to more displacement in the neighborhood.
“The Mission is slowly fading into the sunset,” said Marie Sorenson, a member of the neighborhood association Calle 24.
She and others said that an influx of wealthy tenants — those that could afford the market-rate units in developer Nick Podell’s building — would put upward pressure on existing rents in the neighborhood and force more tenants and businesses out.
Others said that change was already happening and happening fast.
“I don’t think the Mission is slowly fading into the sunset,” said Rick Hall, who spoke after Sorenson. “I think it’s being driven there at a rapid rate.”
The nearly block-long development at 2000 Bryant St. has been in the works since 2013, when Podell pitched the idea of a market-rate housing project in the industrial northeastern section of the Mission District.
That final delay pushed Podell to give part of his land to the city for affordable housing so that it could finance and build up to 136 units of below-market-rate housing next to the 191-unit market-rate building. The market-rate building would have three additional units of below-market-rate housing, resulting in some 40 percent affordable for the project.
The affordable project would go to eight stories, while the market-rate project would go to six. A fifth of the units in the affordable project would be reserved for formerly homeless families, and the rest would be reserved for those making up to 55 percent of area median income, or $53,300 for a family of three.
The new plan was approved on June 2, but activists were still opposed, pledging to appeal the project to both the Board of Supervisors and Board of Appeals, where it goes on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, despite an attempt by appellants to kill the development by showing that its environmental review was inadequate, the Board of Supervisors voted 11–0 after a four-hour hearing to overturn the appeal and proceed with the project.
Most of those opposed to the project said that the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan — which governs environmental review of developments in the eastern portion of the city — was outdated, since it was developed in 2008 before the tech boom. They said the plan anticipated up to 2,054 units in the Mission District by 2025, not the 2,451 units currently in the pipeline for the neighborhood.
“We are currently experiencing an unprecedented boom in housing production in San Francisco,” said Peter Papadopoulos, citing “negative health impacts” to local residents caused by long commutes by tech workers to Silicon Valley, private shuttles, and boutique businesses that cater to the wealthy.
Some supervisors, for their part, agreed that the plan was outdated.
“The Eastern Neighborhoods Plan is constantly called into question,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen when talking to city staff. “Why the heck are we using it? Why do we continue to use the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan when it’s outdated?”
Staff said use of a plan was mandated by state law, and that the only way to use other guidelines would be to replace the current plan — which took seven years to develop — with a new one. Cohen said she would look to do just that.
The Mayor’s Office of Housing, for its part, also sought to quell criticism that the city would not have the funding to develop the affordable housing project, letting the affordable half of the site lie vacant while the market-rate half is built.
Opponents of the Bryant Street project have pointed to 1296 Shotwell St. as an example of the long delays involved in other land dedications. There, the developer of the Vida Apartments project at the corner of 22nd and Mission streets gave land to the city for affordable housing construction in 2013, but the affordable project on the site has still not broken ground.
Olson Lee, the director of the housing office, said in a letter that the affordable housing site at 2070 Bryant St. would be delivered “shovel-ready” and could be expedited through the approval process. The city has already earmarked $30 million for the project, Lee added.
Opponents also tried filing an ethics complaint, included below, against a staff person at the Mayor’s Office of Housing on Tuesday, a complaint that will be addressed by the Ethics Commission but that a city attorney said on Tuesday had little basis in fact.
On Wednesday, the project will go before the Board of Appeals, where it faces its final hurdle before it can begin construction.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the market-rate unit count as 196, not 191.