Community groups call for affordable housing at site of 2015 fatal fire

Community leaders and a city supervisor gathered Friday morning in the Mission District to protest plans to build a nine-story condominium building on the site of a building destroyed in a fatal fire.

The lot at 22nd and Mission streets has been vacant since a four-alarm fire tore through a large, three-story mixed-use building there in January 2015, killing one resident and displacing some 60 others. That building was later demolished, leaving a fenced-off hole in the ground which can still be seen today.

The protesters are demanding the owner, Hawk Lou, sell the lot to The City to build 100 percent affordable housing.

“We have been asking Hawk Lou from the moment the fire happened to please rebuild this building and bring back these families,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents the Mission District. “And if not, sell it to the city, sell it to a nonprofit, community-based organization that will rebuild it ourselves so that we can bring back these families.”

A large hole in the ground is all that remains of a large mixed-use building that was the scene of a fatal fire in January of 2015. (Michael Toren/S.F. Examiner)

The Mission Economic Development Agency has attempted to purchase the building, but negotiations broke down.

“MEDA wants to buy it, MEDA is willing to pay market price, the city is willing to back META with our support and our dollars,” Ronen said.

The architectural plans filed last month describe a nine-story, 129-unit building, which would include 24 below-market-rate units. The building would also feature four ground-floor retail spaces.

Plans filed last month for the site at 22nd and Mission streets describe a nine-story, 129-unit building, which would include 24 below-market-rate units. The building would also feature four ground-floor retail spaces. (Courtesy image)

“This building has become a symbol of what is happening in this neighborhood,” Ronen said, and a symbol “of families who have given their life to this city…but have been pushed out by greed, by fires, by gentrification, by greedy landlords who want to make a buck.”

“We build this city. We are the waiters, we are the maids, we are the drivers, we are the janitors, and it’s unfair that we cannot live in the very same city that we serve,” said Roberto Hernandez, a community organizer and founder of Our Mission No Eviction.

Hernandez is calling on a boycott of Low Cost Meat Market on 24th Street in the Mission District, which Lou also owns. He also said protesters would visit Lou’s neighborhood.

“We are no longer going to allow any more corporate greed and luxury development in our neighborhood,” he said. “This is where we draw the line.”

The demonstration also included a moment of silence for Mauricio Orellana, the victim of the 2015 blaze.

Fire officials have said the 2015 fire was likely caused by an electrical short. The building had a history of fire code violations, including blocked fire escapes, and its fire alarms failed to go off during the blaze.

Lou could not immediately be reached for comment.

One man died and dozens of other residents were displaced after a building at 22nd and Mission streets caught fire in January 2015. Residents told fire officials that the building’s fire alarms did not sound and that the fire exits were blocked. (Mike Koozmin/2015 S.F. Examiner)
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