Delivering the Promise of the Mission’s 681 Florida Community Benefit

In 2016, the Mission community stood up en masse against the market-rate development given the moniker “Beast on Bryant” due to its paucity of on-site affordable housing and community arts spaces. The outcome was a community benefit being granted by the market-rate developer: The lot was split and a portion given to the City for the construction of a 100 percent affordable-housing development that would be shovel ready by the completion of the market-rate development, and would have ground-floor community arts space.

In February 2017, MEDA and partner Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) were awarded the Request for Proposal by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), becoming joint stewards of building affordable housing. To provide as many affordable units on site, the architects determined an 85-foot-high building was needed for the small footprint — this in a neighborhood with a 65-foot maximum height allowable.

The proposed 681 Florida development (former address 2070 Bryant), designed by Mithun architects, calls for 42 percent of units being two bedrooms or larger, with 30 percent of apartments set aside for formerly homeless families. The idea is to also create an accessible, affordable place for arts-focused Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR) uses, providing a window of creativity from the street into a flexible and functional space.

MEDA and TNDC exhaustively explored all entitlement options to obtain increased density and to get those 130 homes built. Of utmost importance is getting 681 Florida constructed at the relative same pace as the neighboring market-rate units — another demand of community advocates. To meet these goals, there is a need for a height increase and expedited planning review, with MEDA and TNDC now using the State Density Bonus and SB35, the latter a California law that went into effect Jan. 1. Other entitlement options would delay the project in the range of six months to a year.  The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development supports pursuing the higher density and achieving as many units as possible.

Without the usage of the State Density Bonus and SB35, 681 Florida would be downgraded to an 86-unit property, with one-third of affordable apartments lost for a community with greater affordable-housing needs than ever. The 44 apartments would have to be removed as follows: four units each on the third to eighth floors (24 units total); an entire floor of 16 units removed due to the ground floor ceiling height needing to be raised; and four units from increased open space on the top floor.

The gist of SB35 was a mandate requiring cities that lack adequate housing to streamline their permitting processes.

MEDA was — and remains — against SB35 as a one-size-fits-all policy of streamlining.  

Housing needs in Palo Alto are vastly different than those in San Francisco’s Mission, where since 2000 there had been 8,000 Latinos displaced (that’s over 25 percent of the community) and no affordable housing had been built in a decade. The income gap seems to get wider day by day.

MEDA voiced the community’s concerns around the prospective passage of SB35 in a July 6 San Francisco Examiner op-ed. We wanted SB35 to address a housing-affordability crisis by ensuring equitable development in neighborhoods and jurisdictions.

With SB35 now enacted into law, MEDA is still seeking amendments that would increase the equity of this bill, distinguishing between SB35’s affordable-housing developments components which help our communities, and the bill’s market-rate construction elements which may have dire consequences for those same communities. As such, MEDA and statewide allies would like to see the bill amended to include:

  1. A “safe harbor provision” for low-income communities within cities where development is already happening and communities are facing gentrification and displacement pressures.
  2. A higher affordable-housing requirement above what is already required locally in exchange for state-imposed by-right approval.
  3. A time limit on each by-right approval before the developer must start actually building the project, for without an expiration date on building approvals the bill’s metrics become unreliable and subject to manipulation.

MEDA has successfully worked with community advocates to increase the levels of affordability and equitable benefits by market-rate developers. While San Francisco is meeting its Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) for market-rate housing, it is failing to do so for its affordable housing below 80 percent Area Median Income (AMI).

As stewards of delivering the promise to the community, we cannot allow that to occur.


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