‘Personal character’ goes much deeper than the height of a building
Today, I read about the proposal to build all affordable housing at the McDonald’s at Stanyan and Haight. I have lived in the Fillmore for the past 20 years and have seen what one person from the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council described as a neighborhood’s “personal character” erode. We have lost historic bookshops, jazz restaurants, coffee shops, Fillmore Hardware, that kooky stationary store to countless dress shops and makeup stores. I understand the desire to hold on to that certain character that makes one’s neighborhood home.
I feel like I won the lottery. I actually entered the below-market-rate lottery six years ago, and my family did “win.” My husband works for the Boys and Girls Club, I am a teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District and we have three sons. We were living in a one bedroom on Webster and Eddy and won the lottery by getting one of the BMR homes around the block on Turk and Webster.
We have lived in the 100 percent affordable housing condo complex for five years and have loved every minute. We have wonderful neighbors in the condo. We know our neighbors, there are get-togethers, the kids all play, we run into each other at the library and the farmers markets. We are teachers, nurses, HR managers, Muni drivers, small business owners, nonprofit managers. Almost every one of the almost 30 children go to public school. We go to Brunos, to Miyakos, to the Fillmore Cafe, play at Hamilton, do karate at the AAACC. We have gotten to know our neighbors in our community. I feel like I won the big lottery by having this wonderful community and being able to raise my boys here.
My neighbors and I have often talked about the idea of “affordable housing” and that many people think of it as public housing. This lack of understanding is not only disturbing for ignorance but for its prejudice. It takes all people to make a community “personal” and special. Anything else starts to sound like Blue Areas back in the day.
“Personal character” goes much deeper than the height of a building. San Francisco is ever-evolving, and many communities are feeling the growing pains. It is vital to keep as many families and middle-class ones as possible. We make that community. We keep the schools going, the small businesses thriving (such as Booksmith on Haight), the churches singing and the libraries and rec centers joyous. Our condo has grandmas and babies and people from more than 13 countries, college grads and middle-schoolers, single folks and retired — and it is beautiful.
I hope that District 5 Supervisor London Breed, who helped oversee this transfer, will keep fighting for 100 percent affordable housing. It will only deepen and expand the thriving sense of community of the Haight.