When Nancy Ana Lucero discovered that her picture appeared in an “I Am Not a Monster” ad at the 16th and Mission BART station, she was furious. It was sometime in September, she recalled; a fellow educator had called her to let her know.

“I was shocked,” she told Mission Local in a recent interview. “I thought it was really dishonest.”

“Dishonest,” because several months earlier, Lucero said, a family friend by the name of Angelica Santiago, asked if Lucero would like to be interviewed and have her picture taken for a campaign that would bring more affordable housing to the Mission.

“The way they were talking to me seemed like they were on my side,” Lucero said. “ I never heard the word ‘monster,’ and I was never told how my photo or interview would be used.”

In September, the ads landed in the 16th and Mission BART Station, depicting portraits of community members. The words “I Am Not A Monster” hangs over each head, and below statements like “I am a bus driver” or “I am a market owner.” For Lucero, it is “I am a teacher.”   

Lucero has been a teacher since 1985. She has taught at Cesar Chavez Elementary and Fairmount Elementary. She’s now a teacher-librarian at Sutro Elementary.

The $46,000 ad blitz was funded by Maximus Real Estate Partners, the would-be developer of the proposed 331-unit housing development at the 16th and Mission BART Plaza — dubbed “1979 Mission St.” by its supporters and the “Monster in the Mission” by its opponents.

The campaign is a response to the fierce community opposition the project has received since its proposal in 2013 — and especially to the developer’s stated goals of “cleaning up” the intersection.

Opponents — namely, the Plaza 16 Coalition, a group that attracts some 100 or so people at meetings — say the project would only further gentrify the Mission. Despite concessions by the developer, these opponents have been steadfast in their demand that the project become 100 percent affordable.

Right now, the project is 23.6 percent affordable, with 41 on-site affordable condos and 49 off-site rental units. (The city requires that 18 to 20 percent of units be affordable in developments with 25 units or more, but several Mission projects have gone to 25 percent and one to 41 percent. )

Maximus’s latest concession to activists was a proposal to include subsidized teacher housing, though how much — and whether the proposal has legs – has yet to be determined.

Enter Santiago.

“We were seeking out people who were open-minded about the project,” said Santiago. She said that when she heard teacher housing might be included, she immediately thought of Lucero, who she called her “aunt.”

Santiago works for the Maximus-backed LLC called Mission4All, which is aimed at building support for the project in the community, including creating the ads and gathering signatures. Mission4All has so far spent $363,200 on the effort.

Santiago, who said she grew up in the Mission but declined to comment on how she began working with Mission4All, insists Lucero was never misled.   

“She was super excited to take the picture, being that proposal was for teacher housing at 16th and Mission,” Santiago said.

Santiago went further. She asserted that Lucero ceded under pressure from teachers opposed to the project, so much that she requested her image be taken down. “It wasn’t until certain teachers gave her their opinion that she got concerned about it,” Santiago said.

Lucero requested the poster be taken down, but Mission4All had refused for months, she said.

Lucero also wanted to make clear that she feels no animosity toward Santiago, who she believes “was just doing her job.” She believes Santiago is a “little fish” in a dishonest campaign.  

The issue was raised in a New Year’s Facebook post by District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen. A friend of Lucero told Ronen in a comment:

Hillary, this is my friend Nancy Ana Lucero, her picture was taken after being lied to about these being low-income housing and is posted on Mission Street against her will. She has asked for this to be taken down for months and they refuse … can anything be done? This is dishonest and false advertising as teachers can’t afford these condos … she is furious … thanks for reading ….”

To which Ronen responded: “Will notify the developer and ask that it be taken down. Thanks for letting us know!”

Amy Beinart, one of Ronen’s aids, told Mission Local that they “made contact with the Monster,” meaning representatives from Maximus Real Estate Partners, who assured Ronen’s office that the posters would be removed within the next few weeks.

Beinart was unclear about whether all the posters would be removed, but “definitely” Lucero’s, she said.

“I was disturbed to hear from Nancy that she felt misled about the use of her photograph in connection with Maximus project,” Ronen said in a statement. “I made contact with the developer, and they have agreed to take these down.”

Joe Arellano, a spokesperson for Maximus, said that the ads were “always slated to come down on Dec. 31.” Asked why the ads are still up, he said that BART waits until the next set of advertisements are ready before the others come down. He said the campaign has asked BART to “expedite” their removal.

Arellano said that the situation is a “simple misunderstanding,” and that Lucero “signed a consent form to be featured in the ads, but ultimately changed her mind midway through the campaign.” 

“Mission4all tried to clear any confusion about the campaign, explain the project, and inform Ms. Lucero that the ads were always slated to come down Dec. 31,” he said. “But, for various reasons, that conversation never took place.”

Those “various reasons” are still unclear. Arellano said that Lucero called Gene Royale, a leader at Mission4All, on a Sunday, and that Royale told Lucero to call back during the week. She never did, he said.

Lucero described the conversation differently.

“He started screaming and said, ‘you call yourself an educator and not read what you sign,’ and threatened to fire Angelica,” she recalled. “Then he hung up on me. That was the end of the conversation. I was being really respectful to him. I thought I was trying to represent families I work with, and this is not what I thought it is. That’s where I am today.”