After years of collaborative planning effort, more than a dozen nonprofits and city organizations have revealed their plan to spare the Mission’s diversity and cultural richness from gentrification. That plan, known as Mission Action Plan 2020, is now available for review and comment and will be considered by the Planning Commission on Thursday, March 2.
The year 2020 refers to the point of no return. Unless the decline in the Latino population and the influx of higher income residents are stopped or significantly controlled, the Mission will be fully gentrified by 2020, the report concludes.
“If these and other similar trends continue, the rich cultural and economic diversity of the Mission District could become a thing of the past, and the Mission will become a neighborhood with a majority of high-income residents by 2020,” the report notes.
The document draws in part from a report produced in 2015 by Berkeley researchers Miriam Zuk and Karen Chapple that concluded the Mission was already in an “advanced state of gentrification.”
To ameliorate that, the 2020 plan offers a seven-pronged approach – all strategies that require money, already difficult to find, and political will.
The report nevertheless sees the possibility of reversing or slowing the two-decade trend of a low-income exodus and a high income influx.
To do so, it recommends improving tenant protections, preserving single room occupancy rooms, preserving affordable housing, building new affordable housing, supporting existing community-serving businesses, improving community access to the city’s planning processes, and addressing homelessness.
It is clear, however, that there are differences of opinion among the organizations behind the plan – specifically, the authors note, the city does not see market-rate development as accelerating displacement. Some of the organizations involved do.
“The City believes that new housing production at all income levels is critical to address the housing crisis, and that the crisis has been partially caused by many decades of slow housing production,” the plan document notes.
Chirag Bhakta, who works Mission Housing Development Corporation, one of the organizations involved in developing the plan, outlined the community perspective.
“When we see housing being developed at market rate, it is well understood that this isn’t for our people, these units are not for the people who are under threat of eviction, people who are under landlord harassment or people who are just stuck where they are because they can’t afford to move up in San Francisco,” he said.
For years, tenant advocates and neighborhood organizations have protested against large market-rate developments proposed in the neighborhood, saying high-priced rentals and condos attract residents with high incomes. Their arrival, tenant advocates argue, herald increased gentrification including businesses that cater to high-income individuals.
In contrast, pro-development advocates have argued that halting market rate construction also prevents the construction of the included affordable inclusionary housing required by the city.
No matter the argument, it is clear the Mission will have loads of new market rate housing. Some 2,000 new market rate units will be ready in the next three to five years, compared to just over 1000 units of affordable housing that are in the pipeline.
The document notes the discord between community and city groups, acknowledging that it makes it difficult to agree on an approach. In the end, the solutions it suggests are a compromise:
“The market forces and historic inequities that have resulted in these disruptive and “unnatural” demographic shifts are part of global trends that a single neighborhood or city cannot resolve,” the authors wrote. “We cannot simply build our way out. Conversely, building little or no market rate housing will also not address and potentially exacerbate the large socio-economic forces at play.”
Both sides agree, however, that as much affordable housing as possible should be built, but there are differences of opinion on exactly what the goal should be. That agreement, Bhakta said, has been key to advancing solutions.
“We might not agree on market rate development ever, but we might agree that we need certain protections from what gentrification does,” he said. “If they’re willing to work on the solutions with us, then we are also willing to work on the solutions with them.”
Community groups say 2,400 units of affordable housing should be built in the Mission by 2020; the city says a range is more reasonable, from 1,700 to 2,400. Flat out building 2,400 units, the city estimates, would take $1.3-1.7 billion and 15-25 years.
Still, more than 1,000 of those units are already in the pipeline, either as new construction or as acquisitions through the city’s small sites program or as the required low-income housing being constructed by private developers as part of market rate projects.
Other goals of the plan include stabilizing 900 tenants per year through grant recipient organizations that advise tenants facing displacement, helping 48 nonprofits per year stay in place, helping nonprofits acquire 20,000 square feet of space to operate community-serving organizations in, and determining the value of older area plans like the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan.
Many pieces of legislation and city initiatives have already been put in play during the time MAP 2020 was being developed, the document notes. These include tenant protections “2.0,” limiting low-fault evictions for things like nuisance complaints or living in an illegal unit, approving a housing bond, establishing neighborhood preferences for affordable housing units, supporting legacy businesses, and providing technical assistance for displaced businesses.
The plan also stipulates annual reports to monitor progress on the outlined goals. The public comment period on the draft plan expires February 19.