Panel backs huge project in the SF’s Mission District

By J.K. Dineen : sfgate – excerpt

The Planning Commission approved the largest housing development in the history of the Mission District Thursday night, despite over four hours of passionate commentary from residents and artists who said the project would continue to squeeze working families and artists out of the neighborhood.

Over the past year, the so-called Beast On Bryant at 2000-2070 Bryant St. has become a flash point for what most San Franciscans agree has become a crisis, the impact that an extreme influx of wealth and speculative investment is having on a neighborhood famous for its arts and working-class Latino community.

The plan, by developer Nick Podell, calls for two brick-clad buildings separated by a public alleyway. On the north side of the block would be 196 market-rate rental units, plus three affordable units to replace rent-controlled units that are being removed. On the other side would be a 139-unit, 100 percent affordable development, for which Podell has offered to donate the land, valued at $22 million…

The loss of the arts space became the crux of the 11th-hour negotiations Thursday night, after an 11-hour hearing, with Planning Commissioners convincing the developer to agree to include 19,000 square feet of space that would be set aside for artists and so called PDR, which stands for production, distribution, and repair. Some of the arts and PDR space will take up square footage that had previously been set aside for so-called “flex units,” which are similar to the live-work lofts constructed in the neighborhood during the dot-com boom.

A coalition of artists, residents, and building trades representatives opposed the development. Those groups wanted the amount of affordable housing to be increased to 50 percent and for 100 percent of the work to be done by union sub-contractors. That group — they called themselves “A Better Beast On Bryant” — tried to negotiate a deal where $10 million of private and union money would be put into the deal in order to increase affordable housing and arts. But in the end the groups offering to invest were looking for a market rate return similar to the financing Podell already had lined up.

Podell said that any more concessions would make the development “un-financable.”

“I showed my books to the city, as demanded,” said Podell. “I’m at the edge of what I can do.”

Several Mission District residents urged the commission not to approve any major projects before a new plan under development, Mission Action Plan 2020, is completed…

rick Arguello, Calle 24 Co-Founder/President, said that even the PDR and arts spaces would be too expensive for most Mission groups. “What’s necessary is 100 percent affordable housing,” he said.

The project divided a community that usually stands together: the San Francisco Building Trades Council, with the carpenters supporting it and plumbers and sheet-metal workers opposed.

Commissioners Katherin Moore and Cindy Wu voted against the project.

“After listening to powerful community comment I think this project is still too far apart on too many fronts,” said Moore. “For me, it is shocking to see the trade unions are not supporting it. This is the first time in my 12 years on this commission hearing this.”

Commissioner Rich Hillis said he sympathized with the criticisms, but that stopping the development would not slow the rate of change…

The Bryant Street project could be a bellwether for three other market-rate Mission District housing projects in the pipeline: the so-called Monster in the Mission at the 16th Street BART Station, which has been stalled by litigation between the property owner and the developer; the 157-unit project Lennar is proposing at 1515 South Van Ness; and Axis Development’s proposed 117-unit project at 2675 Folsom St… (more)


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