Rush hour drivers honked their support on Tuesday afternoon as anti-eviction organizations, community groups, and Mission residents protested what they say is a lack of community engagement by housing developers. The crowd of nearly 50 people spilled off the sidewalk and into the street as they listened to speeches calling for more community involvement in housing issues and greater transparency by development companies.
“Calling for community lands—” shouted Julien Ball of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, which helped to organize the rally.
“—To be in community hands!” finished the crowd.
The group gathered in front of 1515 South Van Ness Ave., which is slated to be redeveloped as a 157-unit housing project. Protestors called for more affordable housing in market-rate projects and advocated for increased input in and control over housing redevelopment projects. They also argued strenuously against Proposition O, which centers on a Bayview Hunter’s Point redevelopment run by the Lennar Corporation, the parent company of the developer of the South Van Ness project.
Although the South Van Ness development has been approved, many in the crowd said the 25 percent affordable housing level agreed to by Lennar Multifamily Communities in August is too low.
“It should be 50 percent,” said Jennifer Fieber of the San Francisco Tenants Union.
As it turns out, the South Van Ness project has second highest proportion of affordable housing in the Mission. The highest is at the 327-unit housing project on Bryant Street, where the developer Nick Podell agreed to a deal with the city earlier this year that brings the affordable housing generated by the Bryant Street project to 40 percent.
Over the last year, seven fully affordable housing projects have been planned for the Mission District.
On Tuesday, activists at the rally looked beyond the South Van Ness development, calling for the district to allow community non-profits and tenants first refusal rights to purchase buildings that may be at risk of being sold to developers.
“We’re not gonna let nobody come in our neighborhood and build luxury housing unless they talk to us,” said Roberto Alfaro of Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth. He lives nearby on 26th and Lucky streets and said his family successfully fought eviction a year ago.
“They ain’t taking us out,” he said to a cheering crowd. “We ain’t going nowhere!”Many of the protestors’ speeches focused on Lennar highlighting its project at Bayview Hunters Point.
“I want to talk to you about another shady Lennar development at Bayview Hunters Point,” said Fieber, addressing the crowd. “It’s Proposition O—”
“No on O!” someone in the crowd yelled out.
“No on O!” Fieber called back.
The $8 billion project at Hunters Point redevelops 750 acres of waterfront property into new retail, housing, and office space.
Proposition O would exempt the development’s office space from counting towards the city’s annual 950,000 square foot limit on new office developments. Activists argue that the development will not create jobs for lower economic tiers, and that under the proposition, new office space in the development would come without a commensurate requirement for additional affordable housing or funding for expanded public transportation to accommodate the increased workforce.
“What’s really offensive is there’s been no community outreach in Bayview,” said Fieber. “They’re shoving this down their throats.”
With cries of “They say Prop O, we say hell no!” the crowd turned to march down South Van Ness Ave.
“Don’t let them take our land,” a man in a black t-shirt called out from his porch as the protestors passed. “They’re taking everything.”
The protestors stopped at the corner of 22nd Street and South Van Ness Avenue, and Carlos Gutierrez addressed the crowd.
“I’ve lived in this neighborhood my entire life,” he said. He pointed to the yellow, three-story building behind the group and explained that four generations of his family have lived there. It is for sale for the second time in recent years. Gutierrez is worried about eviction and is among those advocating for a community and tenant purchase opportunity program.
He called on the candidates running for District 9 supervisor to sign a pledge in support of the program to allow community and tenant purchases. Joshua Arce, Iswari España, and Hillary Ronen all signed the pledge. Melissa San Miguel was not present.
Francis Collins, who has lived in San Francisco for over 40 years, said he’s seen housing in the city change. “I came here in 1967 in the Summer of Love,” he said. “Things were really cheap.”
As the rally wrapped up, he brought his guitar to the front of the crowd and sang “We Shall Not Be Moved,” albeit with some new verses.
“We’ll overturn the Ellis Act, we shall not be moved,” he sang. “We’ve had it with these rent hikes, we shall not be moved.”