A vacant site on Stanyan Street that once housed a McDonald’s currently holds a safe camping site and will eventually be replaced by affordable housing. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

YIMBY organizing wins in the Haight-Ashbury

By Corey Smith

The recent declaration by Supervisor Preston supporting the maximum number of homes at 730 Stanyan is a big win for YIMBYs and pro-housing neighbors everywhere. The site was always prime for a huge number of homes, but multiple neighborhood groups immediately opposed providing the maximum number of homes allowed under current zoning rules. They claimed “neighborhood character,” i.e. a smaller building, was more important than homes for neighbors. With the Supervisor declaring his support for the maximum number of homes, YIMBYs everywhere should be celebrating.

I was ecstatic in late 2017 when the news broke that Board President London Breed had negotiated the purchase of the McDonald’s at 730 Stanyan for 100% subsidized affordable housing. As a resident of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and Community Organizer with the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, advocating for affordable housing in my backyard was natural. I knew there was an opportunity to get the word out to my neighbors about the benefits of this project and to build support for the project in my community.

I authored multiple op-eds, created a petition, polled my neighbors on Nextdoor, spoke to business owners and neighbors and discovered, to my delight, that people wanted lots of new housing! The majority of residents on Nextdoor supported a bigger building than the 4 or 5 stories being pushed by local neighborhood associations. With such a positive reaction to the project, I co-founded the Haight-Ashbury Neighbors for Density (HAND), the District 5 San Francisco YIMBY Chapter, to keep the pro-housing momentum going. Since HAND’s founding, which was rooted in supporting this project, we’ve supported hundreds of homes across District 5. While support is building across the neighborhood, there are surely some skeptics or uninformed neighbors who don’t fully understand what this opportunity means. In addition to housing hundreds of our neighbors, 730 Stanyan provides an opportunity to increase needed services in our neighborhood that our community can help inform. A senior center? Computer lab for residents? Job training programs? The city spent more than $15 million buying the land (a low price for the city by the way), and now we can make the most of this public benefit beyond the homes that will be created.

My neighborhood is special. The Haight-Ashbury has a progressive history that has been hampered recently by preservationists looking to keep some things the way they always were. But given the pressure to listen to the loud anti-housing voices, the Supervisor’s declaration is greatly appreciated and fulfilling. Now, how do we work on making this process go faster and ensure there is enough funding for this and other Affordable Housing opportunities?

Corey Smith is an organizer with the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition and lead of the Haight-Ashbury Neighbors for Density.

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