Around 100 community members were in agreement Wednesday night: A seven-story, 205-unit market-rate development at 1458 San Bruno Ave. would not be good for the neighborhood, and they displayed a willingness to resist the development unless the plans change dramatically.
“I’m having nightmares about what’s going to happen here,” said Becky Jenkins, who has lived in the area of 25th and San Bruno for decades.
Many of the community members, packed into a room at the Potrero Neighborhood House at 953 De Haro St., agreed.
The first-time housing developer, Christopher Goode, whose family has owned the property since 1973, submitted preliminary plans for the project in September. “We settled on housing because we thought it was important,” Goode said Wednesday night at the meeting he hosted. He explained that his family had been looking into doing something different with the property for five years.
The project would be built on a portion of the property that used to house The Farm, a popular artist community and club that closed in 1987. Goode said 11 commercial tenants and no residential tenants occupy the site. The commercial tenants, largely creative enterprises, would be displaced by the project.
The proposed development would include 122 studios and 83 two-bedroom units. Twenty-three of those units would be affordable — that’s 11 percent.
The project would sit southeast of Potrero Del Sol Park and its community garden, and neighbor the Meadows Livingston School.
Concerns around affordability, shadows on the garden, gentrification, and the loss of artist space dominated the two-hour meeting, as Goode and his architect, Bob Baum of Gould Evans, had to practically beg community members to even hear out their proposal. They hardly got the chance, as the audience seemed to have already made up its collective mind.
“People like you come in and move us out — it’s not right,” said Deadre Puertolas, who has lived in the area of 25th and Potrero for decades. “Our culture is moving out of the Mission.”
Goode, who lives in New York, suggested the market-rate development was his only option. The city would not buy the property for a Navigation Center, he said, and affordable housing developers were also not interested in buying the site for development. Goode added that he’s tried to meet with Recreation and Parks Department officials about turning it into a park — but they kept flaking on him, he said.
“I don’t want to go through the process,” Goode said of developing his property, which he acknowledged would be long and arduous. “I want to unload the property.” And that was clear: Goode was on the defensive for the entire two hours.
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Defending his decision-making, Goode also revealed that he has a “half” ownership stake in the property, and the other half is divided among 12 “siblings and extended family” members, who he said are not interested in plans other than the development. He said the situation was “messy,” but he nevertheless had a “fiduciary responsibility” to the family members.
To that end, Goode said he wants to “build cheap and rent cheap” — though still at market prices. “I have no intention of this being luxury housing,” he continued to say. But community members didn’t buy it: The project is, after all, primarily market-rate. (The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is currently $4,750 per month.)
“For me, what this comes down to is money,” said Erick Arguello, an anti-gentrification activist, referencing Goode’s decision to invoke the California Density Bonus Program, which allows developers to add units without increasing the percentage that are affordable. “Let’s get real — that’s the bottom line.”
(Goode said he would still have to pay a $3 million in-lieu fee in addition to providing the onsite affordable units if the state program was utilized.)
Arguello advised Goode to drop the project and sell the land. “It’s not gonna work and I think you’re gonna lose money in the end,” he said. “The tenants who are gonna live there … are gonna be calling the cops on the low riders [and] the skateboarders; they’re gonna get tired; they’re gonna leave; they’re gonna be complaining to you.”
Mary Beth Pudup, a coordinating volunteer at the Potrero Del Sol community garden, worried about shadows. “This development will destroy the garden — it will destroy this very precious place,” she said. “It’s not just about the light. The sun heats the soil — that’s how plants germinate.”
And some in the room worried about the existing tenants of the property, who use its warehouses as artist space, such as the recording studio Tiny Telephone, which has been there for more than two decades. Sarah Kennedy, an artist, pointed out that Goode himself is an artist and likes gardening, a statement Goode agreed with.
“What you’re doing right now is proposing to evict one of the oldest artist communities in San Francisco, and wipe out one of the oldest community gardens,” she said. “The irony is immense.”