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San Francisco says development not to blame for Mission gentrification

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Planning Department’s Mission plan calls for more housing, but with an emphasis on BMR

Late afternoon sunlight hitting the sides of buildings in the Mission. Torbak Hopper

It’s 2017 and the Mission remains ground zero in the fight over San Francisco’s affordability and housing crisis. On Friday, the Planning Department released the city’s Mission Action Plan (MAP 2020), detailing, in short, how City Hall hopes to save the neighborhood for longterm and current residents.

The 86-page rundown may invite skepticism from neighbors thanks to its contention that the Mission’s problems are not about development—or at least, not exclusively so.

To wit:

The City [...] is trying to scope out a way to further study the nexus between development and displacement to determine what it is, if one exists. The City acknowledges displacement is very real, but believes the causes of displacement are complex and tied to larger systemic issues beyond development

[...] The City contends that actual market-rate development in the Mission from 2009-2014 has been limited, producing close to 500 units, compared to 276 units of affordable housing in that same time period.

These findings will presumably not sit well with the city’s most active activist wing, who tend to look at market-rate development with suspicion. “Greed has taken over,” a recently-evicted Mission dweller told Newsweek in 2014. “Everyone's gone money hungry.”

But the MAP 2020 report also cedes that development of late has been lopsided in a way that might not help neighborhood interests:

Another sticking point [with Mission residents] was how, if at all, to phase the roughly 2,000 market-rate units currently in development, which will increase the number of higher income households in the neighborhood, with the construction of affordable housing. [...]

Community participants believe the pipeline will need significant mitigation through this and another means in order to achieve the goals of MAP2020.

The MAP document, which planners and the other contributing city elements stress is “not a definitive and final plan” but a work in progress, lays out a rough sketch of how City Hall hopes to save the Mission’s Latino culture and keep it “a neighborhood of choice for the most vulnerable households.”

Last year, Stanford found that between 2011 and 2015 the Mission led the city for evictions, averaging one per 63 residents (based on the city’s 2010 neighborhood census estimate), 908 in all. A plurality of those were Ellis Act evictions.

Torbak Hopper

While market rents on rental sites such as Zumper declined in neighborhoods like Noe Valley, SoMa, and Dogpatch last year, the Mission continued to rise. The MAP report cites an average of $4,800/month for two-bedroom apartments in the neighborhood.

On top of that “the Mission lost approximately 63 rent-controlled units per year between 2010 and 2014.” And SRO landlords have taken to keeping rentals short-term to avoid rent-controlled long-term tenancies.

Among the plan’s various initial target numbers to turn back the tide: Preserving an extra 100,000 to 151,000 square feet of PDR space by 2020; upping the number of households who get tenant counseling to 900 per year; and most importantly, finding where to get 2,400 new affordable homes in the next three years.

At present, only 864 affordable homes are reportedly in development.