Excelsior youth say mixed-use housing proposal would feed displacement

Youth from the Excelsior District and surrounding areas protested a controversial mixed-use housing proposal Saturday that they said would accelerate gentrification and fuel displacement in the largely working-class neighborhood.

Plans to construct 175 units of affordable housing at 4840 Mission St. — the current site of the shuttered Valente Mortuary — have been in the works since 2014. But earlier this year, the site’s nonprofit housing developer BRIDGE Housing Corporation, partnered with developer Emerald Fund to also transform an adjacent Safeway at 4850 Mission St. into 253 units of market-rate housing.

On Saturday, dozens of youth and their supporters, including the community group PODER, gathered in front of the mortuary to voice their objection to the proposal, which they said was negotiated without community input and in its latest iteration does not provide for enough affordable housing to meet the needs of the Excelsior’s current residents.

“We want to bring awareness of the corporate greed of the developers who, with their new market rate housing, will bring about the displacement of our people,” said Inkza Angeles, of the economic and environmental justice advocacy group PODER.

Holding posters that read “The Safeway Sellouts” and “Fight for our Home,” they marched to the Safeway site pegged for development.

“Safeway is the proposed site of market rate housing which we are not going to be able to afford,” Angeles said. “They are forcing us to build the new market- rate housing at Safeway, in order to have a very small amount of affordable housing and that just ain’t right.”

The district’s supervisor, Ahsha Safai, has previously said the changes made for a “better project” by allowing the developers to up the number of units designated as affordable.

“We learned that the Safeway site was also going to be developed by the owners and Emerald Fund … and the Safeway was incorporated into our project phase one, which increased our overall affordable units from 100 to 175 [at 4840 Mission Street],” Kearstin Dischinger, project manager and policy planner for BRIDGE Housing, told the San Francisco Examiner previously.

But the protesters called for 100 percent affordable housing on both sites, and criticized the developers’ current vision of constructing the affordable and market-rate units on separate plots.

“The fact that they are putting affordable housing units somewhere off site does not change the fact that they are drastically transforming this neighborhood,” said Trevor Martin, treasurer of the San Francisco Berniecrats. “It is not going to change that there will be massive displacement and massive gentrification in this neighborhood.”

Former District 10 Supervisor John Avalos supported the protest — while in office, Avalos said he advocated for “a larger housing bond that was passed by voters” that helped fund the affordable project at 4840 Mission St.

The current version of the project “has broken an agreement that had been made when I was in office by a backroom deal with developers,” he said.

“People want the whole site to be affordable. Politically that is something to fight for,” Avalos said, adding that “100 percent affordability is not out of the question.”

Laura Waxmann
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Laura Waxmann

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