MEDA and Community Groups Sign Letter Opposing Axis Market-Rate Development, Fear Worsening Mission Housing Crisis

MEDA today joined a number of other community-based organizations and individuals to submit a letter (below) to showcase strong support for the appeal against the proposed Axis market-rate development planned for Folsom and 23rd streets in the Mission. This four-story building (photo, design by David Baker Architects), adjacent to Parque Ninõs Unidos, would exacerbate the neighborhood’s affordable-housing and displacement crisis.

The signees are basing their opposition via the need for a review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), jointly espousing the belief that the Axis development’s cultural impacts will negatively affect the character of adjacent Calle 24, a City designation of 24th Street as a Latino Cultural District in the Mission neighborhood. There is opposition to this project because of the contribution the project will make to the displacement of Mission residents and small businesses, the low number of affordable-housing units planned for the development, and the impact of removing local Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR) space and its accompanying working-class jobs in an area suffering from high unemployment.

The group strongly urges District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, and all Supervisors, to support the community appeal and to not support the Axis market-rate development as currently proposed, based on the aforementioned negative implications for the Mission’s Latino families.

______________________________

Market-Rate Housing and its Displacement Impacts in the Mission
New research indicates proposed Axis development on Folsom Street is part of the problem, not the solution

There is growing evidence linking the building of new market-rate housing to the displacement of residents and businesses, particularly in sensitive neighborhoods such as the Mission District. The proposed project at 2675 Folsom St. — appealed by the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District — is part of a wave of more than 2,000 market-rate units proposed for the Mission that new studies indicate will contribute to displacement impacts on the existing community.

A brand-new 2017 study led by Karen Chapple of UC Berkeley concludes that market rate Transit Oriented Development (exemplified by Mission projects such as 2675 Folsom St.) is connected to gentrification and the displacement of low-income households:

Overall, we find that TOD has a significant impact on the stability of the surrounding neighborhood, leading to increases in housing costs that change the composition of the area, including the loss of low-income households.1

Another recent report, Leo Goldberg’s 2015 study of NYC neighborhoods, pointed to the dangers of inducing gentrification and contributing to the displacement of vulnerable community members by encouraging upscale development through rezoning. Goldberg stated, “development interests spurred rezonings in commercial and industrial areas as well as gentrifying neighborhoods, inducing a sharp increase in housing costs and residential dislocation.”2

These rezonings, concluded Goldberg, induced an influx of new high-income white residents and resulted in the secondary displacement of Blacks, Latinos, and low-income renters. Importantly, Goldberg found that this displacement occurred even in neighborhoods that were not gentrifying prior to the rezonings.

In addition to this growing evidence of residential displacement, a 2016 study3 by academic Rachel Meltzer revealed that gentrifying census tracts were correlated with a higher level of business displacement than non-gentrifying tracts, and that this displacement was more significant in communities with a higher concentration of people of color that were experiencing an influx of new white residents. These are precisely the conditions present in the Mission right now.

Market-rate projects contribute to block-by-block and cumulative gentrification in the Mission and other sensitive neighborhoods by introducing additional high-income earners into traditionally working-class areas. This “gentry class” can afford to pay higher rents, currently averaging $3,400 per month4, while a recent survey from the Mission Promise Neighborhood program, for which MEDA is the lead agency, revealed that 30 percent of the Mission families served by this program were living in poverty, compared to 13.2 percent citywide.5 

Chapple’s latest study also investigated the relationship between gentrification and auto use (Vehicle Miles Traveled) near rail stations under various conditions, and found an increase in VMT was likely to occur under the following conditions (which are present in the Mission):

  • Regional Vehicle Miles Traveled are likely to increase “if gentrification results in a reduction in the population living near rail and if those rail station areas have good transit service, high density, and other well-known features of supportive Transit Oriented Development.”

Between 2000 and 2012, while the rest of the city population rose, the Mission lost 4.8 percent of its population, median income increased by 48 percent (gentrification), and households with cars rose from 37 to 64 percent.6

In summary, new research indicates that market-rate projects such as 2675 Folsom St. can be expected to have at least the following impacts on the Latino Cultural District and other similarly sensitive areas:

  • Contribute to the displacement of existing low-income residents and businesses.
  • Increase car vehicle miles traveled regionally, a negative impact recognized under CEQA.

This new displacement research is unfortunately absent from the City’s socioeconomic report on 2675 Folsom St., with the exception of general Meltzer study conclusions misapplied to a specific corridor — the Latino Cultural District — instead of using Meltzer’s appropriate neighborhood-specific case study data as shown above.  

This critical error of using generalized or regional-level results instead of focusing on relevant, local, and culturally appropriate data is repeated several times in the City Report by the agency commissioned with making the study, ALH. In doing so, they failed to fulfill the specific task assigned by the Board of Supervisors for this appeal – “prepare an analysis of potential socioeconomic effects of the proposed project within the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District.”

Market-rate housing projects and their associated gentrification and displacement impacts are their most harmful at the micro – not macro – neighborhood level, and they need to be studied and mitigated within that framework.

The Mission has already lost 8,000 Latinos over the past 15 years, along with countless family-serving businesses. The City’s Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office recently forecast that if current trends are not disrupted the Mission is on track to lose an additional 8,000 Latinos by 2025. 7

Critically important communities such as the Mission, a longstanding working-class neighborhood and gateway for immigrants, must be protected and empowered towards their unique development. Our most vulnerable residents and small businesses must be defended and carefully cultivated in the face of otherwise apathetic market-forces. Critical corridors that are the backbone of these communities such as the Latino Cultural District and the Mission St. corridor need special consideration in the Mission and other sensitive neighborhoods.

The City has begun to take helpful steps forward in this direction through Mission programs such as MAP 2020, the creation of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, and some on-the-ground assistance to small businesses. These are helpful steps — but we must go much further if we wish to ensure that the Mission and other vulnerable communities remain home to our working-class families and traditional small businesses. Until the City completes its own study on the effects of market-rate housing, which it recently got under way, projects such as 2675 Folsom St. must at the very least undergo full CEQA reviews. We urge the Supervisors to support the community appeal.

Luis Granados, Executive Director
Mission Economic Development Agency

Erick Arguello, Co-Founder/President
Calle 24 Latino Cultural District

Maria Victoria Castro, Executive Director
La Raza Centro Legal

Spike Kahn, Director and Founder
Pacific Felt Factory Arts Complex

Deepa Varma, Executive Director  
San Francisco Tenants Union

Peter Papadopoulos, Coordinator
Cultural Action Network

Citations:

  1. Chapple, K., Waddell, P., Chatman, Daniel (2017). Developing a New Methodology for Analyzing Potential Displacement.
  2. Goldberg, L. (2015). Game of Zones.
  3. Meltzer, R. (2016). Gentrification and Small Businesses, threat or Opportunity, Cityscape:  A Journal of Policy Development and Research, Volume 18, Number 3, 216, Pages 72-26, 
  4. Zumper.com (March 2017). 
  5. Mission Economic Development Agency (2016). 2016 Mission Promise Neighborhood Survey.
  6. Mission Public Life Plan (2014). 
  7. City Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office (Oct. 27, 2015). 
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