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.