SF and Nonprofits Offer Plan to Control Mission District Gentrification

File photo: Construction in the Mission

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.

From the MAP 2020 draft.

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.

From the MAP 2020 draft. Source: SF Rent Board

“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.

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6 Comments

  1. jane

    How may we really influence the planning commission to effect positive results for the mission community ?

  2. “The California Legislative Analyst’s Office, which provides nonpartisan advice to the state legislature, just released an interesting report on the high cost of housing in the state.

    They found that California has much higher housing costs than the rest of the country (shocker!) and that barriers to new construction are largely responsible…”

    https://medium.com/@albrgr/a-lot-more-market-rate-construction-might-help-low-income-renters-more-than-increased-subsidies-c4a2a86c9e21#.8fx4xic6i

  3. John Thompson

    Acording to the study, the Mission was about 50% latino in 2000 and about 40% latino in 2014. Yet, the overall latino population in San Francisco during this time remained flat or grew by about 1%.

    Are the Mission district Latinos moving to other parts of the city? Or, are the mission distrist latinos being displaced completely out of the city and being replaced by new latinos from elsewhere? Is there a new latino district growing in SF somewhere outside of the Mission? Or maybe the latino population is integrating throughout all parts of the city and not concentrating in one district?

    Maybe understading this phenomenon will help the 2020 project get support. Many people like me look at the numbers and see a disconnect that is not being explained.

    • Rick Lopez

      John – thanks for reading into the actual report! Mebe SF does not have a diaspora of Latinos. Mebe they are moving out of the Mission to better neighborhoods after they sold their place in the Mission?

    • Milo Trauss

      percentage is not the best way to measure the the robustness of a community, and can be a deceiving indicator of displacement. The non-latino population could have grown more rapidly, thereby decreasing the percentage of the latino population(although I acknowledge the displacement of latino residents and do not support it).

      In this article Mr. Bhakta argues that market rate housing is not for those vulnerable to displacement. But it IS for those with higher incomes who compete for existing housing and CAUSE displacement. With more market rate housing, those who can afford it can move in, and rest of the population can remain undisturbed in their current housing. Building more space, both commercial and residential, at all income levels, is the best way to ensure everyone has opportunity to stay.

      • John Thompson

        I agree about percentage, but it still doesn’t add up. It would be great if these studies provided actual numbers. As the population grow in the city overall, the percentages remain contant. The fact is, San Francisco has grown in terms of percentage of Latinos and in number of latinos from 2000- to 2014. Yet, this study say the Mission is losing latinos at a rapid rate. I think it’s accurate that latinos are leaving the Mission, but the question is, where are they going? If they are leaving the city, that means there are many latinos migrating to SF to not only make up for those leaving, but also increase the percentage. More Latinos are coming to SF than leaving. The Mission neighborhood is the opposite. What neighborhoods are attracting Latinos? What do those neighborhoods offer that the Mission does not to attract these folks? With all the attention the Mission is getting for gentrification, you would think understanding this migration would be important to understanding how to fix it.

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