The City and County of San Francisco has officially been transferred control of the plaza at 16th and Mission streets – a crucial step in the long-fought victory of the Mission community over the private developers. These speculators were attempting to build luxury towers on the site, but the power of community has paved the way for the vision of 100% affordable housing in the heart of the Mission Street corridor.
“It represents a great victory that the land where the ‘Marvel’ will be built has transferred to the City after a fight that took almost a decade,” said Brenda Córdoba, leader and president of the Board of Directors of Fe en Acción and member of Plaza 16, the powerful grassroots coalition of 100+ organizations and many residents who came together to fight for affordable housing at the site.
The next step toward developing the community’s vision for the site, the “Marvel in the Mission,” is ensuring that housing is funded and built at this site – and that it is truly affordable to neighborhood residents who are at the very lowest income levels, say Plaza 16 members.
“Luxury construction should not matter more than the needs of our working families, immigrants and seniors who have made San Francisco what it is today by their work and efforts over the years,“ explained Córdoba. “Housing must be recognized as a right and not a privilege,” she added.
The patient community-powered campaign to stop the “Monster in the Mission” proposal took countless protest actions, letter-writing campaigns, petitions, marches and City Hall testimonies by thousands of concerned and engaged community members. Along the way, neighborhood residents honed their vision for the site in a series of community workshops and neighborhood events held by Plaza 16. That vision would be a 100% affordable housing development with a significant number of units at the lowest tiers of affordability, as well as community services for the residents.
The stakes were high in the struggle, with more than 9,000 Latinos already displaced from the Mission from 2000-2019, along with countless small businesses and cultural resources. The originally proposed high-end luxury units were expected to further drive up prices in the area, contribute to the area’s displacement and cast shadows on the playground at neighboring Marshall Elementary School.
At one point the Maximus development team, the lead agency on the luxury-housing project, even began bidding on nearby properties, all in an effort to trade these lots to the City to meet their approval requirements.
“Not only was the ‘Monster of the Mission’ a danger to our community, but all luxury housing construction causes our working-class neighbors to be displaced,“ said Córdoba.
Indeed, from the time that even the “Monster” proposal itself came forward there was already a disruption of the fabric of the neighborhood in a ripple of gentrification impacts in anticipation of the new luxury building eventually being built. Across the street, there were attempted tenant-harassment evictions reported. In another direction, nearby nonprofit offices were displaced from their building for expected incoming tech offices, according to a displaced staffer. The Redstone Building next store to the plaza was suddenly put up for sale. Additionally, the Grand Southern single-room-occupancy (SRO) hotel, a few doors down at 1941 Mission St., was also put on the market, with its close proximity to the plaza highlighted as a main selling point.
Plaza 16 fought back in a series of actions and campaigns, and successfully brought the Planning Commission itself into the Mission to discuss the project with community members, with Mission High hosting the hearing not far from the project site. At the public hearing that night, more than 1,000 community residents showed up to voice their strong opposition to Maximus’ planned development, share their personal stories of struggle, and share their vision for what affordable housing at this site would mean to them and their neighbors.
MEDA is part of the Plaza 16 Coalition’s community-led fight against inequitable development at one of the prime locations in the Mission, joining the coalition before even becoming an affordable housing developer.
The community victory over the “Monster in the Mission,” and its huge strides toward the creation of the “Marvel in the Mission,” reaffirms the community’s strength, determination and vision for its neighborhood. There is still much work to be done, but the community is ready to move forward together to make this vision a reality, looking toward a solution to the loss of families and organizations rooted in the Mission.
“San Francisco needs to be a sanctuary in all aspects, including 100% truly affordable housing,” concluded Córdoba.