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Activists protest major Mission development inching toward completion

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Protestors dub developer “Satan,” among other things

1515 South Van Ness is a six-story, 157-unit housing development just north of Caesar Chavez Boulevard, erected by Lennar, the same developer pouring shocking sums of money into Hunters Point Shipyard and Candlestick Point construction.

Or at least, that’s what it will be if all goes according to the developers‘ plan. Right now the only thing standing between Lennar and their big Mission project is the approval of the Board of Supervisors. And community opposition that includes about 50 locals who gathered at the site Tuesday afternoon with some choice words for them.

"When you’re talking about Lennar, you’re talking about Satan," Franzo King, founder of the Church of Saint John Coltrane, told the crowd of protestors. "They’ve got a good sales pitch, but they’re not in the business of keeping promises. When they came for the Fillmore, we warned Bayview ‘You’re next.’ Now Bayview is telling the Mission, ‘You’re next.’"

A constellation of tenant and anti-eviction groups, including the Housing Rights Commission and the Tenants Union, have said no to the South Van Ness development virtually every step of the way for two years. Tuesday’s gathering seemed to be a bid to draw attention back to the project (and their opposition) as it nears its final stretch.

The Planning Commission approved the building back in August, but the activists vowed on Tuesday to appeal that decision, and to enlist Mission representative David Campos as well as, if she‘s sympathetic, Bayview rep Malia Cohen.

The developer has made some concessions on the project. Twenty-five percent of the proposed units will be priced below market rate (up from an initial 12 percent), a move that the San Francisco Chronicle hailed as "raising the bar." And BDE architects rolled out a softer and less intimidating design for the building prior to its Planning hearing.

But to many who live in the Mission and nearby neighborhoods, that’s immaterial. Activists like those who assembled Tuesday refer to the building as "75 percent luxury housing."

Lennar can’t be trusted to keep its word to neighbors, they allege, referencing the toxic specter of the company’s Hunters Point project (presently the subject of an EPA probe). And they hold that new housing in the Mission that’s beyond the means of most Mission residents is an invasion, and tantamount to theft.

"I was born right down the street at St Luke’s Hospital," said Roberto Alfaro, director of San Francisco-based youth outreach group HOMEY. "We’re not going to let them come in here and build luxury housing without talking to us. We’re not going to let them tell us who gets to live here."

A Lennar spokesperson did return Curbed SF’s calls, but the company declined to comment.

Many of the same groups showed up to express support for a smaller market-rate development nearby on Harrison Street on the same day that the Planning Commission approved 1515 South Van Ness, a rare case of neighborhood activism backing market rate housing.

But the larger building remains a sore point. Presently, the lot is a warehouse that dates to the ‘40s, vacant ever since its last tenant moved out in 2015.