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Neighbors, let’s organize for a more inclusive San Francisco

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This empty lot at Mission Bay South Block 9 is slated for a 120-unit development that will provide housing for homeless single adults. (Steven Ho/S.F. Examiner)
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My neighbors are organizing. They’re passing around the hat to raise funds to fight something many consider a grave injustice: an abuse of power that, many fear, could upend our Mission Bay neighborhood.

Except they’re not fighting impending displacement, the opening of a business that could release hazardous fumes or a systemic racial injustice. They’re trying to halt progress on a supportive housing project located next to the Public Safety Building that will give thousands of chronically homeless San Franciscans their best chance to get back on their feet.

Rather than raise funds to try to keep people out of our neighborhood, let’s use this organizing energy and our combined resources to make San Francisco more inclusive and equitable.

Before I go further, let’s not forget about the important benefits supportive housing has for the people it helps and the benefits that come to any mixed-income neighborhood. These really are win-win situations.

My family and I live directly across from the lot in question, and I look forward to seeing the project come to fruition.

At a community meeting a few months ago, many of my neighbors lambasted this project as not the best use of this parcel, that the city of San Francisco should sell the land and then construct supportive housing where land is cheaper. In other words, they were making an argument for further concentrating poverty in our city. This would take residents further away from employment centers located on the equally accessible mass transit lines running through Mission Bay.

That approach runs counter to so many of our policy objectives and the hopes and dreams many of us have for The City. By locating supportive housing in Mission Bay and not an already low-income neighborhood, we take one step forward in combating the further concentration of poverty in our city. It’s the mixed-income nature of our neighborhood, combined with the services offered at the supportive housing development, that will be crucial to its residents.

To be fair, I like it when my neighbors organize. We moved into our condo about a year ago and learned that neighborhood activism had catalyzed a vote at the Board of Education for the Mission Bay Elementary School. (Fingers crossed that the project is ready when my daughter turns 5 in 2022.) My neighbors can make their voices heard and have the power to do really positive things for our community and city.

Having been to a few community meetings now, including meetings of the Mission Bay Citizens Advisory Committee and special meetings, like the one about Block 9, we need to get more representation at these meetings. Meetings like these are often dominated by older residents, especially homeowners. I walk around my building and the neighborhood all the time and know that Mission Bay is far more diverse in terms of age, race and income than these meetings would suggest. One of the best ways we can make our neighborhood better is to show up.

To my younger and more diverse Mission Bay neighbors, I hope you can join me in showing up and engaging in these important processes. With that in mind, I want to see my organizing neighbors redirect their energies toward policies and public investments that can achieve what it seems we all want: a safe, prosperous and equitable city.

Instead of putting funds into an effort to try to stop this important supportive housing project, let’s get more involved with efforts to get more housing, including market-rate and subsidized affordable housing, built across The City. Let’s raise thousands of dollars so that crucial services can reach our underserved neighbors rather than casting them out to far-flung reaches of The City. In the end, let’s turn Mission Bay into San Francisco’s most welcoming neighborhood and a model for what a new mixed-income urban neighborhood could look like.

Efrem Bycer is a Mission Bay resident.

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