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After Years of Delay, Bryant Street Housing Project Moves Forward

June 3, 2016

by : missionlocal – excerpt

After years of delay, developer Nick Podell has cleared a major hurdle to begin construction on the largest housing project planned for the Mission District, though neighborhood activists have pledged to continue their fight against the development.

In a marathon session at City Hall, the heavily-debated project at 2000–2070 Bryant St. — one that will take up nearly an entire block between 18th and 19th streets — was approved by the Planning Commission just after 11 p.m. on Thursday, after hours of testimony linked the mostly market-rate development to the gentrification sweeping the Mission District.

“The Mission is in the throes of a ferocious and terrible displacement crisis that is eviscerating the neighborhood,” said Susan Marsh, a San Francisco resident. “What is necessary to stop this? What is necessary is construction of housing affordable to the people already living in this neighborhood. Nothing else will work.”

The Project

The Planning Commission voted 5–2 to approve the condition with some changes on Thursday. An extra 12,000 square feet of so-called PDR space — which is production, distribution, and repair, light industrial space formerly on the site — will be added to the project. This falls short of the ask for activists but is significantly more than the project had before Thursday’s hearing…

Organized opposition to the project tried last-minute meetings with the developer in the two weeks before Thursday’s vote. Those negotiations fell through this week after Podell promised small changes to the project, but not enough to quell activists — who organized dozens of speakers to rally against the project…

Labor Differences

Matching the neighborhood activists in bodies if not voices were dozens of neon-vested laborers backing the project, who crowded the hearing room and periodically stood en masse when asked to by their union boss — though they seldom spoke in direct support.

“We’ve been engaged with Podell for almost two years prior to getting a commitment,” said Jay Bradshaw, director of organizing for Local 22, which has a deal with Podell for construction on the site, which would result in 82 percent union labor.

That was not enough for other labor unions also present. Both the Building Trades Council and the San Francisco Labor Council — labor groups that are often pro-development — came out against the project earlier this year, hoping to move Podell towards 100 percent union labor…

That opposition was significant for Kathryn Moore, a planning commissioner. She said “it was shocking” that trades unions came out against the project, a first in her 12 years on the commission.

“I have never heard the unions stand here and say what they said today, which leaves me concerned,” she said. Moore voted against the project.

Commissioners Vote in Favor

But other commissioners praised the project for the “lightyears” it has come since it was originally proposed. It has bumped up affordable housing and preserved more light industrial space, Christine Jonson said, and little would be served by killing the project…

Dennis Richards, the vice-president of the commission, said the project is rare in delivering a high percentage of affordable housing. At 41 percent affordable, the Podell site would meet the demand for below-market-rate units created by the market-rate units on-site, Richards said.

“This project is going to deliver that, it’s among a handful of projects that will deliver that,” he said. “I think this project is going to go far in meeting the needs for below-market-rate units that it’s inducing.”

Though commissioners voted to move the project forwards to the Board of Supervisors for final approval, opponents have vowed to fight it there, saying the commission meeting was just the beginning of their opposition… (more)

Panel backs huge project in the SF’s Mission District

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