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Central SoMa affordable housing battle brews over Forest City project

March 4, 2015

By : bizjournals – excerpt

The location for the mega project slated to bring 1.8 million square feet of offices and apartments to the four acres around the San Francisco Chronicle building seems ideal. Forest City and Hearst Corp.’s 5M project will get a prime spot near the Powell Street BART station, allowing it to punctuate the northwest part of the reimagined neighborhood. It will also be a block from the future Central Subway.

But that location is also drawing the developer into a battle that will preview other potential Central SoMa skirmishes when it hits the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors later this year. Dozens of single-room occupancy hotels line Sixth Street, a block away from the 5M project, and activists worry the SROs won’t have a future in South of Market’s new upscale playground.

“It’s a huge concern – the proximity of the SROs to such a huge project,” said April Veneracion, an aide to Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents SoMa. “People had thought that Sixth Street will never be gentrified, and I don’t think that’s true anymore. So how do we make sure SROs, which are a critical part of our affordable housing stock, will be maintained?”

Strong anti-conversion laws protect the city’s hundreds of residential hotels, but recent examples of SROs going upscale in SoMa and the Tenderloin have advocates worried. The neighborhood’s affordable housing advocates at the Tenants and Owners Development Corporation, or TODCO, have dubbed 5M “gentrizilla.”

Forest City recently pledged to build one-third of the site’s more than 700 units as affordable if it built the project out to full density, but is still in discussions with neighbors about the site plan. The project’s location in Central SoMa – where the city and neighborhood activists are pushing for one-third of new residential units to be affordable – intensifies the tug-of-war over affordability…

Forest City could also look to refurbish a neighboring SRO building, which would be less costly than new construction. A Forest City spokesman said the developer would release new details in “late spring.”

“We include substantial affordable housing levels in our projects because we believe they should reflect the diversity of the city and contribute to solutions to the supply and affordability of housing,” Alexa Arena, senior vice president with Forest City, said in an emailed statement from a spokesman. “Every site is different, which impacts how affordable housing levels are determined, but we’ll continue to seek ways to achieve high proportions in our projects.”… (more)

The 5M project is already embroiled in a bitter confrontation with the arts community that has lost an opportunity to participate in the project amid strange conflicting stories. See relevant articles here:
The Gentrification of our Livelihoods: Everything Must Go…


One Comment leave one →
  1. March 4, 2015 6:05 pm

    Reblogged this on Grassroots Actions.


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