Editorial: Seeds of rebirth in Bayview plan

After more than a decade in the works, a massive redevelopment plan for the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco is poised to receive final approval, kicking off a 30-year period that would transform a neighborhood that has suffered for decades from civic neglect and high crime rates.

The redevelopment proposal, the largest in The City’s history, would be funded by $188 million in local property taxes and cover more than 1,300 acres. Half of the funding would go toward building 3,700 housing units, from market-rate to heavily subsidized housing. Landscaping, improvements to public parks and streets, and traffic-related changes would cost $56 million. Nearly $40 million would go toward economic development in the struggling sector, including business facade improvements, small business assistance and job training.

Taken together, the plan is a concerted effort by The City to revitalize a neighborhood whose lack of jobs, high homicide rate and relative isolation have made life a struggle for the mostly African-American residents.

San Francisco’s history of transforming African-American neighborhoods in the name of urban renewal is an ugly one, with many residents of the Bayview holding personal and painful memories of the Fillmore District redevelopment in the 1950s and 1960s. Residents in that neighborhood saw a struggling but proud community torn apart, with families relocated, buildings razed and businesses ruined. It is no surprise that many Bayview residents see in the Fillmore a history that they fear will repeat itself.

The Fillmore example has been the guiding template for what not to do in the Bayview. Redevelopment agency officials, mindful of the parallels, have structured the Bayview plan far differently, with prohibitions against the seizing of houses, churches and other properties, and other safeguards. The 30-year timeline ensures that each step of the process will be carefully planned, with plenty of chances for public input.

Many residents also fear that a spruced-up neighborhood, soon to be connected to downtown and the budding biotech sector in Mission Bay by a new Muni light-rail line, will become that much more attractive to wealthier city residents who will drive up real estate prices and drive longtime residents out.

It is incumbent on city officials to do right by the Bayview. Residents’ concerns should not be seen as complaints to defuse, but as the guiding principles of redevelopment. The creation of jobs, a more pleasant environment, and an unswerving commitment to preserving homeownership opportunities for neighborhood residents should be at the top of the agenda.

Bayview residents deserve to be brought fully into The City’s economic revitalization, and a neighborhood middle class must be allowed to prosper. The Bayview plan can help achieve those goals.

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