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Mission Protesters Fight for Housing By Fighting Against It

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Preliminary renderings courtesy David Baker Architects

There's a strange thing that happens at community meetings for proposed housing developments in the Mission, which is this: both developers and neighborhood activists cite a need for more housing, and more affordable housing, and proceed to talk right past each other. Before last night's preapplication outreach meeting for Axis Development Group's proposed four-story rental building at 2675 Folsom even started, neighborhood group Calle 24's Erick Arguello stood up and declared, "We just want to let Axis know that we're opposed to this 100 percent." The crowd, fueled at once by outrage and plates of gratis empanadas, waved hot pink signs reading "No more expensive Market Rate Housing! 100% Affordable Housing now!" and chanted "Give Axis the axe!" The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project's Erin McElroy brought along her drum.

A short presentation about the design, led by David Baker Architects' Amit Price Patel, lurched and halted as the crowd roared with mic checks—the human microphone tactic popular at Occupy Wall Street—heckles, and challenges. The project would demolish a single-story kitchen supply store adjacent to Parque Niños Unidos and put up a four-story building with 100 market-rate rentals and 17 below-market-rate units, just over 14 percent of the total. The units range from studios as small as about 400 square feet to three-bedrooms as large as roughly 1,600 square feet. As Patel explained, the facade would step in and out to pick up on Folsom's "small-scale neighborhood grain," and drop down to three stories to meet neighboring buildings. A midblock passage open during daylight hours would break up the structure's mass and connect Folsom and Treat streets.

During the question period, one audience member asked if Axis would increase the number of affordable units. The moderator, attorney Victor Marquez, sidestepped the question, answering, "Right now we're gathering the information on what's important to the community." After the booing died down, Marquez continued: "What's important to the community is affordable units on site. You could build affordable units on site and do 120 or 100 percent of median income. We want to do the deepest, to go to 50 and lower of median income and to provide pricing that's going to be reflective of the local community."

We caught up with Axis managing partner Theo F. Oliphant afterward and asked if all the affordable units would be set at 50 percent of area median income and below. According to Oliphant, some of them would, but not all. He explained that Axis is seeking to serve people with a mix of incomes, from 30 percent of area median income up to 120 percent. The idea is to address the needs of a range of residents, from very-low-income households to middle-income renters. "People who have well-paying jobs still can't afford to live in the city because they don't qualify for a below-market-rate unit," he said.

Sonja Trauss of the San Francisco Bay Area Renters' Federation (SFBARF) raised her hand to ask the developers, Oliphant and managing partner Muhammad A. Nahiri, if they would consider building denser. "Why not eight stories? Why not twelve?" she asked.

We put that question to Oliphant afterward. "The difficult thing is the city went through an exhaustive process and came up with the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan in 2009," he said. "It took, like, 10 years for the city to go through all the community process and adopt the plan. For us to come along five years later and say, 'Forget all that hard work you did; we're just going to propose something that we think makes more sense,' that's a tough road."

· More Units Proposed for the Mission, SF's Housing Hotspot [Curbed SF]
· Projectile Proposal [Curbed SF]