Roberto Hernandez speaks to activists about opposing 22nd and Mission development. Photo by Julian Mark

Hawk Lou, the embattled owner of a property at 22nd and Mission streets left vacant by a deadly fire will soon feel the wrath of Mission neighborhood activists.

“We made it really clear that … if he sold it to any developer, we would fight and fight and fight to make sure no developer came in here to develop luxury condos,” said Roberto Hernandez, a prominent neighborhood activist, to a group of some 40 other activists packed into the former Casa Sanchez restaurant on Monday evening.

The building had been home to mostly low-income tenants, as well as commercial tenants like Popeyes and the Mission Market. (Mission Local was also a tenant at the time of the fire.)

Lou, apparently, did not heed the warnings from Hernandez et al., and the “fight” will likely come to his doorstep. 

While he has not yet sold to a developer, he is in the process of entitling the property himself. Per plans he submitted earlier this month, Lou has proposed a nine-story, 129-unit building at the corner of 22nd and Mission, which was left a vacant lot by a 2015 blaze that killed one man and displaced some 60 other residents. The project would include 24 affordable units, or around 19 percent. It will cost an estimated $36 million to build.

Largely at issue is whether the displaced tenants of the building will have a right to return to the newly completed project. Right now that possibility is unclear, as the gutted former structure was demolished in 2016, which strongly called into question the tenants’ legal right to come back. Also at issue is Lou’s decision to decline an offer by the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) to purchase the land to build affordable housing for the displaced tenants and other low-income residents of the neighborhood.

Hernandez said Lou’s asking price for the land was $30 million. Mission Local reported in 2015 that he was considering offers of $20 million. But he never sold.

“We need to take some action, and that’s why we’re here tonight,” Hernandez said.

The activists’ plans boil down to, essentially, making Lou’s life hell so that he will come to the bargaining table.

First, they plan to organize demonstrations in front of his meat market at 24th and Florida.

Second, they said they would hold a press conference on Nov. 2, the closing of Day of the Dead festivities, to announce their opposition to any development on the site unless the land is “sold to the community and developed as affordable housing,” Hernandez said.

Third, they plan to show up at Lou’s residence — the address of which they have not yet obtained — and “shame him in front of his neighbors,” Hernandez said. This meant picketing in front of his house and ringing the doorbells of Lou’s neighbors and informing them of their issues with Lou.

All three had been individual suggestions until Hernandez polled the room on which they should pursue.

“Do all three! Bang bang bang!” said one community member.

And like that, it was agreed, and Hernandez doled out the assignments to volunteers.

“Has anyone talked to Lou about this development?” asked Scott Weaver, a lawyer for the Calle 24 merchants association.

No one had, so Weaver said he would talk to Lou, although he did not specify what they would discuss.  

Lou declined to comment for this article. He told Mission Local last week that he is open to selling the property to a developer or developing the site himself. “Anything can happen,” he said.

At Monday’s meeting on 24th Street, Hernandez described the 2015 fire at 2855 Mission Street as traumatic for the Mission community. The four-alarm fire was, indeed, the largest in a spate of blazes throughout the neighborhood at that time, and was the largest the Mission has seen since.

“That is a very symbolic fire to all of us,” Hernandez said.


Community members packed into the 24th Street restaurant to strategize opposition to the proposed development at 22nd and Mission. Photo by Julian Mark.
Plans for 22nd and Mission. Plans drafted by Ian Birchall and Associates.
The empty lot currently at Mission and 22nd streets. Photo by Daniel Mondragón.

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. Same problem, different day. San Francisco enables this behavior and as a result everyone is suffering. People want to force someone to build things they want, but really they are not interested in doing the work themselves. There are a bunch of other empty lots in the Mission, why don’t these activists use their smarts and pool their money to build up a building they want and stop wasting everyone’s time?

  2. To Gloria above: why are the units vacant and how long have they been vacant? Guess what? A vacant unit brings in zero income and the mortgage has to be paid not to mention taxes and insurance. Obviously you’ve never been there but that is stress, big league. Eventually reality bites and the asking price comes down. That’s how the market works. My guess is that you’re one of Hillary’s darlings but she is making things worse for you. You should demand that she make it her tip, top priority to get those five thousand units of housing built that she campaigned on.

  3. Article after article on the opposition to change (read development, gentrification, etcetera) reinforces my opinion that these so called ‘activists’ are in essence using an element of terrorism (intimidation) to force their way of thinking on an entire community. Not only have the co-opted the Mission as being Latino, a concept that has been debunked, history is clear that many different racial/ethnic groups have been the predominant residents of the Mission, over the city’s history, but now they are in essence advocating that a property owner is not allowed to do as he/she sees fit with the property they own, and pay taxes on. The market economy has created this tsunami of development (or re-devlopment), and the bottom line is that it is not going to stop, or be reversed. Owning property is an INVESTMENT, that’s why they call it real-estate investing, and yes some of us live in our investment (perhaps for many years), whereas others don’t, whether it is residential or commercial. Yet at some point we expect a return on our investment, and if for whatever reason you have been a renter all your life, that comes with risk, such as displacement, when the investor wants to see their property provide a return. Owning property is not a form of social justice, nor is it philanthropy, its an investment, and as such will forever be treated as a vehicle to increase personal wealth. It is what it is, and frankly its not the property owners fault, if others are not part of this economic model. So if you want to see an increase in affordable housing, or other below market-rate options, then as another poster said, get out and raise the money to do exactly that, but stop penalizing and terrorizing those of us who do. Stop saying no, and start saying how, obstruction may cause the unintended consequence of backlash, there are more residents in favor of balanced development of this neighborhood than you might think, they pay property taxes, and they vote. At some point the neighborhood political climate will change, and those in favor of significant economic and residential development, will be in the drivers seat. Best to be allies, remember the adage, if you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu.

  4. This protesters don’t think that this market feed many families with small children and if their is not market where are this families going to end. Shame the protesters

  5. My friends work in the meat market. Hope this protestors don’t make this market close. Most of the workers have children 3 to 4 children. Wondering if this activists are doing the right thing. If they are helping or destroying.

  6. Mission activists are good I have to give it to them. They learned from the NIMBYs in wealthy neighborhoods and learned how to delay and obstruct. Progress is coming though whether they like it or not as young people want to be able to live here; it’s not just about keeping people who were here in the 1960’s in their home.

    1. How many of the activists at the meeting were the displaced tenants? Theirs is really the only opinion that I need to hear, how many of them want to come back? What’s a reasonable rent that they can afford?

    2. Your comment seems to be ignorant of the history, climate and culture of this neighborhood. As a young person who wants to be able to “live here” the answer is not about continually building unaffordable sterile eyesores. There’s currently an estimated 5% vacancy rate, that’s about 4% more than I have EVER known it to be. Doesn’t sound too much like “progress” to me when you have luxury condos all over the city sitting vacant because of greed.

  7. These activists are ridiculous trying to put the genie back in the bottle and halt progress. Look I’m sorry when people have to move, but these activists and unfortunately our representatives Campos preciously and now Ronen don’t understand the concept of unintended consequences in a market economy. Their actions just make it more expensive in the mission and it’s sad to watch. Build a lot of affordable and market rate housing!

  8. Mr. Hawk is a greedy, negligent slumlord. We’ll start with that and keep it there. He neglected the building which led to numerous fires, the last one burning down the building, killing one person and displacing over 60 others (including families). The fire also displaced many neighborhood serving businesses. Not one ounce of remorse and now he’s preparing to profit from the tragedy. NOPE!

  9. The project sponsor has done the correct 1st step of utilizing the State Density Bonus Law. This ensures that State Law — not wacky, corrupt, Local law in cahoots with “the Mob” — has precedence over their project.

    Once the project sponsor receives their PPA Letter, they should have all their ducks in a row to immediately to file their Project Entitlement Application — ASAP!

    They should also make certain that they are holding the Planning Department’s feet to the fire by invoking and demanding adherence to the Mayor’s Executive Directive 17-02 to ensure that this project’s approval process takes no longer than the mandated 9 months.

    As opposed to Mr. Tillman’s nearby “Laundromat Project”, the project sponsor must hold absolutely firm and not acquiesce in any fashion to these nativist extortionists. If the project sponsor show any weakness, it’ll come back to bite them — big time.

    (If the project sponsor has any doubt about this, just ask Mr. Tillman who agreed to innumerable bad-faith delays and demands for additional unnecessary “studies” only to be thwarted — albeit temporarily — at the 11th hour by the anti-democratic/illegal “Supervisorial Perogative” of Supervisor Ronen.)

    With respect to Mr. Tillman’s upcoming hearing (in 1st Quarter of 2019) regarding his lawsuit against the City — this should end up being very helpful to the project sponsors efforts to get their proposed project approved.

    In Mr. Tillman’s case, the City (i.e. anti-housing Ronen) has clearly acted in violation of State Law and will be found liable for significant damages.

    This will massively temper further illegal behavior on the part of the City.
    Into the wake of this forthcoming court decision, the project sponsors of 2855 Mission will find their path to Planning Entitlement a lot smoother.

    Remember, in dealing with the MEDA, United to Save the Mission and the Calle 24 cabals, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”!

    Don’t give an Inch!

  10. Time to organize “the neighborhood” to vigorously oppose MEDA’s 12 story monster at mission and 18th St. Give them a taste of their own medicine.

  11. You could save space by truncating your headline to a generically useful one for all cases–“Neighbors oppose building.”

  12. Would it be ok to have the same number of affordable units as were there before? With the additional units at market rate?

    That seems like a reasonable compromise to me. We need more housing. The folks displaced need housing. Its possible to address both.

    It isnt possible to build homes that cost the same as the aged and not code complaint units that burned down. To wit: code is there to prevent things like fires… And it makes building more expensive than it used to be.

    Also, Lou should be allowed to participate in the economy as well as help the community, right?

  13. Hawk should not profit by his misdeeds. The building was in unsafe condition with windows blocked. After the fire, he left it unsecured to literally rot. I walked by the building every day and could smell the mold and decay. He just left this public nuisance and danger to sit until there was no alternative but to raze it. My understanding is that that complicates the right of return for burned out tenants. Those tenants should be able to return and the balance be affordable housing. And please could the design not be another boxy boxy eyesore.

  14. Thanks to the local NIMBYs and other activists, I expect that space to remain an empty muddy hole for at least a decade. At least the croaking frogs bring a taste of nature to the area.

  15. Lots of innocent folks are going to be harassed and abused, neighbors and workers at his businesses. These activists are going to find themselves hated and not listened too. If they want affordable housing why not take all this angry energy they have and raise the funds and build it themselves. Start small. Raise the funds, make the sacrifices, take responsibility. Bullying is not the answer.

  16. This owner is lucky he’s not in jail, like the Ghost Ship guy. He should do the right thing and sell to a land trust or the city fr 100% affordable development.

  17. What a pain in the butt! Now, instead of availing myself of several conveniently nearby markets, I’ll have to trek all the way to 24th and Florida for my meat. Please let us all know when the “picket lines” are in place… so I can go cross them. Shame on these activists for threatening this man.

    1. I actually know a guy who works there. I hope their protest doesn’t lead to that meat market closing and him losing his job.