OpEd: “Developers are trying to downplay impact of Plaza 16 project”

The following is an OpEd by J. Scott Weaver published January 7 on the El Tecolote Website.  The piece was written in response to a published statement from a Maximus Real Estate Partners spokesperson.

The housing development at 16th and Mission streets proposed by Maximus Real Estate Partners will cause surrounding rents to increase, pushing even more residents out of the Mission and San Francisco. The project will negatively impact students at the Spanish Immersion School next door and will cause local businesses to close. In a recent commentary published by El Tecolote, Maximus attempted to downplay its real impact on the community, but we’re not buying it.

Maximus wants to build two 10-story towers and a five-story building that will contain 309 market-rate housing units, and just 42 below-market-rate units (the minimum required), along with 32,000 square feet of commercial space, and 164-space parking garage. Rents for the market-rate units are expected to range between $3,750 and $5,000 per month for one and two bedroom apartments. In order to afford these units, households would need to earn between $125,000 and $180,000 annually. Not only will most Mission residents not be able to rent here, the ripple effect of this development would be like a bomb going off– increasing rents on neighboring residents, business and nonprofits throughout the neighborhood. That’s why more than 100 business, community, and nonprofit organizations have joined forces to oppose the project.

The project will cause rent increases and displacement
Maximus has stated that its project will “ease the pressures on existing housing stock” by building more housing. Building 309 units of market-rate housing will not lower rents— quite the opposite. Have the recent developments in the Mission made things more affordable to existing residents? Absolutely not. According to the City Planning Department, more than 565 new units have been built in the Mission (83 percent at market rate) in the past six years. Yet, last year alone, rents in the Mission rose by more than 15 percent according to a survey by Zumper, an online apartment rental service. As rents in the area increase, so go property values, which will incentivize more speculators to buy and flip housing through Ellis Act and other no-fault evictions. Working-class families cannot afford to have this many luxury housing units in the heart of the Mission.

The project will harm students at Marshall Elementary School
The proposed buildings would be right up to the property line of the Spanish Immersion elementary school. The students would experience noise, dust, debris, and inconvenience from the construction, which would impact at least two school years. Traffic congestion coming out of the 164 spaces in the parking garage would also increase safety concerns. Finally, the 10-story building would completely overshadow the school’s playground. Instead of lowering the height of the building, Maximus is offering to build a new playground to mitigate a bit of the shadow. But this would impact students further just to get to less than what they have now.

The project will cause local businesses to close
We’ve seen what happens to local businesses when people move to the neighborhood looking for luxury goods to fill their luxury tastes. The rents for local businesses go up as the landlords of these businesses—like those of residential buildings— seek higher-paying tenants. Local businesses and nonprofits are likewise concerned that their customer and client bases will continue to erode due to the increased displacement in the neighborhood.

We need a project that meets the needs of the community This project design is based on Maximus’ desire to make as much money as possible. The Plaza 16 Coalition believes that projects such as this should be built to meet the needs of the community first.

J. Scott Weaver is a long-time housing and tenant activist and attorney, and works with the Plaza 16 Coalition and the San Francisco Tenants Union. He sits on the Board of Directors of Accion Latina

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