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Mission-dwellers urge City Hall to scuttle 117 new units

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Activists cite UC Berkeley study to argue that new building is “part of the problem”

A rendering of a black and white, four-story building on Folsom Street.
The Folsom building as imagined by architects.
Courtesy David Baker Architects.

Six tenant, housing, and activist-related groups sent a letter to San Francisco City Hall on Monday urging lawmakers not to green light a proposed four-story, 117-unit residential development at 2675 Folsom, arguing that it will hurt Mission culture.

Back in 2015, many of the same parties declared themselves “100 percent against” the Axis Development Group project. Almost exactly two years later, they’re sticking by that.

The Mission Economic Development Agency, a non-profit housing developer, signed onto the complaint, arguing in a separate preamble that this much market-rate housing so close to the heart of the neighborhood poses an existential threat:

The Axis development’s cultural impacts will negatively affect the character of adjacent [...] Latino Cultural District in the Mission neighborhood. There is opposition to this project because of the contribution the project will make to the displacement of Mission residents and small businesses, the low number of affordable-housing units planned for the development, and the impact of removing local [...] working-class jobs in an area suffering from high unemployment.

The Folsom building is almost ready to go, but lawmakers are considering an appeal demanding that it submit to a full CEQA review. Previously, the city allowed the project to skip some parts of the review process.

“There is growing evidence linking the building of new market-rate housing to the displacement of residents and businesses, particularly in sensitive neighborhoods such as the Mission District,” the appellants’ letter reads.

The would-be view from above.

To back up that claim they cite a joint UC Berkeley and UCLA study’s findings this year that market rate development in some neighborhoods does speed up the ouster of longtime residents.

Karen Chapple, professor of city and regional planning at Berkeley, writes in the abstract of the cited study that “[Transit Oriented Development] has a significant impact on the stability of the surrounding neighborhood, leading to increases in housing costs that change the composition of the area, including the loss of low-income households.”

[Update: Chapple tells Curbed SF that although the Folsom project fits the definition of TOD as used in her study, leveling her findings against a single building isn’t really appropriate. “It’s apples and oranges,” Chapple says. “We did a study about neighborhoods, not buildings.

“It’s our fault,” she adds, saying that she plans to update the study with a caution against applying it to anecdotal examples, but emphasizes “You just can’t use the study like this.”

Chapple’s research was not the only source cited in the complaint, which also invoked “Leo Goldberg’s 2015 study of NYC neighborhoods.”]

The Board of Supervisors has heard the neighborhood appeal of the Axis project several times since January, but this week delayed a final decision until May 9.

The letter went out one day after former City Supervisor turned State Senator Scott Wiener chastised California activists for obstructing market-rate development during a housing crisis.