Can Chinese Millionaires Save San Francisco’s Poorest Neighborhood?
SAN FRANCISCO — When Sir Paul McCartney rocked out for 49,000 fans at San Francisco’s historic Candlestick Park last week, it marked the stadium’s final public event before its demolition. McCartney closed the show with an emotional rendition of the Beatles classic “The End.” But for the surrounding communities, the occasion signals something of a new beginning.
Candlestick’s demolition will kick off the next stage in San Francisco’s largest redevelopment project ever. Over the next 15 years, the San Francisco Shipyards project will create more than 12,000 housing units, hundreds of acres of parks, 800,000 square feet of retail and 3.1 million square feet for office and commercial research and development, much of it in the chronically impoverished neighborhoods of Bayview-Hunters Point and Candlestick Point. The predominantly black neighborhoods in the area have been labeled the only part of San Francisco experiencing “extreme poverty,” and local homicide rates have been nearly five times the city average.
The Shipyards project, funded by hundreds of wealthy Chinese investors, aims to change that. The money flowing into the project is part of a recent infusion of Chinese capital breathing life into long-dormant development projects in the Bay Area. Developers, city planners and community groups hope the Shipyards project will bring much-needed construction and retail jobs into this geographically and economically isolated corner of the city, but some local residents fear it may signal the beginning of a new wave of gentrification — this one funded by detached foreign investors.
How can Candlestick be considered a dormant project when it just closed last week?
In exchange for their investment, the Chinese hope to attain American green cards through the federal EB-5 program, which allows foreigners to obtain the residency permits for themselves and their families in exchange for investments of $1 million — with the threshold for high unemployment areas, like the Shipyards, set at $500,000…
“We’re very grateful for the monetary support that our Chinese friends have lent to the city and county of San Francisco to make projects like the Shipyards happen,” said Dr. Veronica Hunnicutt, chairwoman of the local Citizens Advisory Committee, which advocates for community interests on the project. “It’s a model program for the community, city and really the nation.”…
Is the nation ready to sell rich foreign nationals green cards?
Lennar began to lean heavily on money raised through its EB-5 partner organization, the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Center (SFBARC). Over the past two years, SFBARC has tapped into a groundswell of Chinese interest in the EB-5 program, raising $200 million to date. It plans to raise another $250 million in the coming year…
Though the EB-5 program is open to all foreigners, in recent years it has been dominated by an explosion of interest from wealthy Chinese looking for a route to citizenship abroad. Between 2007 and 2013, annual issuance of EB-5 visas multiplied more than tenfold to 8,567, and many predict that growth from China will soon cause the program to hit its maximum annual quota of 10,000. Fang says that more than 80 percent of SFBARC’s clients are Chinese, many of them looking to move their children away from the toxic air and stultifying education system in many Chinese cities. According to Fang, SFBARC’s investors in the project have had a 100 percent success rate in their green card applications….
“This massive influx of Chinese investment will put thousands of Californians to work and dramatically improve Oakland’s waterfront,” Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said at a signing ceremony for the Brooklyn Basin deal. “This project is just one example of what’s possible when business leaders in two of the world’s most dynamic regions connect.”…
Have the folks in Hunter’s point seen any of those thousands of jobs?
But despite those pledges of assistance, some Bayview-Hunters Point residents remain wary of a looming wave of foreign-funded gentrification, saying that after years of work on the site, the community has still yet to feel the promised benefits.
“I haven’t seen nothing yet. That money flows back to where it comes from,” said resident Bob Pinkard, who has owned nearby Surfside Liquors for more than 40 years. “We’re just going to let these folks come in and buy the land right out from under us –- straight cash and no money trail.”…
Concerns over displacement run especially high in Bayview-Hunters Point, which many residents describe as the last predominantly black community in San Francisco. And looming large in any conversation about redevelopment is the history of San Francisco’s Fillmore district, a once thriving black community that was known as “the Harlem of the West.” In the 1950s the city’s redevelopment commission labeled the area “blighted,” and the ensuing redevelopment plan displaced and bankrupted hundreds of black businesses and homeowners, contributing to the prolonged exodus of the city’s black population that continues today.
Local leaders have specifically pledged not to repeat what happened in the Fillmore, stressing that the Citizens Advisory Committee has spent nearly two decades shaping the project so that it benefits the community… (more)
We need to know a lot more about the federal EB-5 program. Where did it come from, how was it introduced and by whom? Was it part of a larger financial package or bill or something embedded in a farm bill? What other cities are being impacted by this program?
What is the upside for the current residents of Hunter’s Point? Who will live in the new units? Is there a limit to how many each party, or family can purchase? How will these investments be tracked? What other deals do the EB-5 investors get?
Does the program allow EB-5 investors to circumvent immigration laws designed to control the flow of foreign workers into the country? Why are they being allowed to compete with Americans for jobs and scarce housing?
What is the path to citizenship for wealthy landowners with green cards? Are they being pushed ahead of other green card holders applying for citizenship, or does that cost another million?
What is their path to citizenship? Children born here will be US citizens. How does that make other immigrants feel? In fact, how does that make the unemployed and underemployed citizens of Hunter’s Point feel? What happened to “give us your tired your poor?”
These questions should be posed to the Supervisor candidates in District 10. This is their district project so they should know the details, especially how it will effect the Hunter’s Point residents.