A rendering of the proposed 2918 Mission Street project by Gould Evans

Activists intend to file an environmental appeal on a project that would build 75 units of housing at 2918 Mission St., and that plan has the developer ready to do battle.

“Please consider this email to be the equivalent to a fencer’s salute before beginning a duel,” wrote Robert Tillman, the property owner and developer of 2918 Mission. “We intend to have fun creating a legal precedent that will shut down forever the shakedown racket of MEDA, of Calle 24, and of the other Mission Activists.”

The appeal in this case is being brought by Scott Weaver on behalf of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural Corridor group. MEDA, the Mission Economic Development Agency, is not involved in the appeal — the nonprofit made an offer to purchase the property, but the offer was rejected as insufficient.

The project was approved after two tense hearings before the Planning Commission, where commissioners argued that the project provided little affordable housing but couldn’t argue with a state law that demands projects be approved if they reach a certain threshold of affordability — a threshold lower than what local laws prescribe.  

Once filed, the Board of Supervisors first considers the appeal. If they uphold it, Tillman would file suit against the city for violating the state’s housing laws, thereby setting a precedent, if he were successful.

Weaver, for his part, said it would be irresponsible not to appeal the project to secure additional environmental mitigation, and pushed back on the characterization of activist objections to development as a “shakedown,” saying the groups he represents do not ask for benefits that would go to their own coffers, but rather push for increased below-market-rate housing onsite and other concessions, such as hosting temporary shelters on the site before construction begins or finding muralists in the neighborhood to decorate blank walls.

“We do not intend to request any concessions from you. We have met with you several times and you have been clear that you have no intention to even minimally provide community benefits that other developers have been willing to provide,” he responded to Tillman.

Weaver, who volunteers as legal representation for groups like Calle 24, said development in the Mission has not stopped it from becoming an area of “advanced gentrification,” according to a UC Berkeley study. He also argues that the number of market-rate units developed in the neighborhood has far exceeded the number anticipated by the 2008 city plan for the area, called the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan.

“Seeking equity from developers is hardly a shakedown — it’s a desperate attempt to keep the community intact. But, then again, your interest is only to maximize the bottom line,” Weaver wrote to Tillman. “I hope you see the irony of your planned attempt to ‘shut down’ those very activists and organizations that are trying to keep the Mission’s Latino Community alive.”

The escalating confrontation is a tonally more aggressive version of a disagreement that has played out between developers and activists repeatedly in the neighborhood: Those who advocate for more development say any and all housing added to San Francisco’s starved market will help alleviate displacement pressures, and tenant advocates who insist only an influx of affordable housing will help working class families stay in place.

On previous occasions where a resolution didn’t crystallize between the parties left to their own devices, Supervisor Hillary Ronen and her staff have stepped in to mediate — most recently, for 40 units of housing at 1726 Mission, and a nonprofit space planned at 1850 Bryant Street.

Amy Beinart, an aide to Ronen, said the office hasn’t yet reached out to Tillman and Weaver, but would be willing to lend assistance. Otherwise, she said, Ronen will remain neutral before reviewing the case and subsequently casting a vote to uphold or dismiss the appeal at the Board of Supervisors.

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  1. Can’t wait for this to be built. Kudos to you Mr Tillman for standing up to the racist, nativist and xenophobic neighborhood bully coalitions. Best of luck.

  2. MEDA is a shakedown racket to extort money from those trying to build new housing in the Mission, and has done more to PREVENT the construction of new housing in the mission than most any other organization. Furthermore, while MEDA’s representatives when they stand up to speak claim to support the mission community and its long-time residents, what it really means — by its own admission on the MEDA website, is that it is there to support one particular race/ethnic group in the Mission and they do not support other races moving into the neighborhood. As Tillman wrote in his comments above, these activists that oppose the building of any market rate housing routinely shout down speakers they don’t agree with, and worse, blatantly advocate for keeping gays out, non-Latinos out, working professionals out, etc. San Francisco progressives pride themselves on their “inclusiveness” — well, except for their support of excluding anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

    1. Exactly. MEDA is a cynical extortion racket whose own leadership has long abandoned the Mission (Luis Granados lives in the East Bay) but have enlisted an uninformed, frightened local population to do their dirty work at public hearings to fund their own bloated salaries.
      Of course, Laura Wenus will never find fault with MEDA (or Hillary Ronen, the MEDA candidate) as MEDA helps pay her salary.

      1. Edward, I think there has been a misunderstanding about Mission Local’s relationship with MEDA. Mission Local rents an office from them – I’m not sure how that would contribute to my salary.

  3. Thanks to MEDA and other orgs for continuing to work hard to preserve the neighborhood and culture of the Mission! Your efforts are appreciated!

    1. There’s nothing ‘special’ about the mission. I’m so sick of hearing that there is. Anyone who takes a step outside of this bubble and into a properly run city would see it. This ‘protection’ of culture is exclusionary, damaging and progress inhibiting. This ‘culture’ you’re preserving is contrived anyways, it’s either there or it isn’t. Trying to forcibly hold up failing businesses selling Mexican wresting masks, and the like, and stopping housing being built because it doesn’t serve a 100% affordable market is down right stupidity.

  4. If there is a shortage of housing in the City, it would seem logical to permit the construction of more housing. How about planning on a City-wide level, and insisting on more affordable housing throughout the City, including in wealthy neighborhoods? Why should the Mission be ghettoized and re-segregated? It’s more diverse, cleaner, and safer now than it was in the 1970’s, when I first moved there. The Chinese escaped from Chinatown, the Italians from North Beach; why should the Mission be an enclave for a single ethnicity? Shouldn’t the City Council consider Fair Housing laws, and not make decisions in favor of a single ethnicity? Or is that another state and federal law they choose to ignore?

  5. San Francisco does not follow state law or even its own laws. The only remedy available to me under state law is to enforce the law myself and to get paid attorney’s fees by San Francisco. Unfortunately, there is no other mechanism to enforce the law against a local government that deliberately chooses to ignore it. That is the fatal flaw in all of our housing laws.

  6. “Keep the Mission’s Latino community alive” by delaying the construction of housing that would alleviate the shortage of places for Latinos and others to live in the neighborhood? Not too smart, guys.

  7. “Please consider this email to be the equivalent to a fencer’s salute before beginning a duel.”

    Oh, lord, another developer with a heroic, romantic, overstuffed self-regard. Nothing more righteous than slaying local citizens in the way with his sword of truth.

    1. Please read the background on this project. Tillman was/is being pretty transparent about his intentions. I also respect Calle 24’s objectives but their strategies and tactics are bonkers. Tillman is justified in his frustration.

      1. Booradley, I have always expected and prepared for my project to end up in the court system.

        I came to this realization after my January 6, 2016 community meeting was repeatedly disrupted by an activist who shouted down many speakers and delivered an extensive rant regarding Alex Nieto. Of particular note, a gay neighbor supporting my project was told to “go back to the Castro” because he did “not belong in the Mission.” Later, a woman remarked to my 22-year old daughter, who was home from college in Boston and attending the meeting, that she wished my daughter “had been blown up” (presumably in the Boston bombing).

        Community Meeting Over Mission Housing Proposal Heats Up

        Community Meeting on New SF Mission Housing Turns Ugly

        The bar may be raised even higher for new housing in the Mission

        At my November 30, 2017 Planning Commission Hearing the activists tried to shout down my testimony to the Commission after they had already had a chance to testify in public commentary portion of the hearing. Planning Commission Vice President Dennis Richards stopped the hearing and called in four sheriff’s deputies, who told the activists to sit down and stop disrupting the hearing or be removed. I thank Commissioner Richards for his courage in taking this action.

  8. Once again Calle 24 shoots the community in the foot by slowing down housing inventory development. Now that City College is free, Arguello and his goon squad should sign up for Econ 101 and get real.

  9. MEDA demands increased in-lieu affordable housing fees and then competes for those fees from the MoH.

    “I hope you see the irony of your planned attempt to “shut down” those very activists and organizations that are trying to keep the Mission’s Latino Community alive.”

    MEDA’s been trying for decades without much success. How many more bites at the apple do they get?

    Will they ever organize residents to demand land use justice?

    Or is their real job to ensure that there is never any resident organizing in the neighborhood, never any sustained opposition to market rate housing, and in exchange get a chance to compete for in-lieu fees as a newly repurposed affordable housing nonprofit?

    If the choice is between letting developers run wild and an insular nonprofit corps that is pursuing a political project that spells doom for their stated politics, then that’s no choice at all.

  10. I hope it is approved. It is a pretty nice looking building, close to BART, and nice and tall when others these days are built too short. .

  11. Developers need to find murals? Activists and Nimby’s look at the new state laws around housing. People are tired of you blocking housing because you are afraid of changes to the neighborhood. Stop opposing any and every market-rate development.

  12. I’ve always wondered … who decides which renters are allowed to moved into these “affordable” or “below market rate” housing units after they’re set aside in new developments? And what are all of the criteria involved in deciding who is worthy of living in an affordable housing unit and who is left outside of that privileged cohort?

    1. The short answer is that it’s complicated. The Mayor’s Office of Housing oversees apartments/homes in the BMR program. Units are tied to the prospective renter’s income (so not every unit is the same level of “affordable”) and while basically it’s a lottery system, there are also certain preferences, like for fire victims. More details here: http://sfmohcd.org/finding-affordable-rental-housing-san-francisco