The Mission Dolores Academy, at the spot the city was started in 1776, was the appropriate venue for a community forum on the changes going on in the rapidly gentrifying Mission. Hosted by the San Francisco Chronicle, with reporter Joe Garofoli as moderator, this forum served as a follow up to the paper’s recent, in-depth series, “A Changing Mission.”
The six-person panel comprised: MEDA Executive Director Luis Granados; Calle 24 Latino Cultural District Founder Erick Arguello; Senior Advisor to the Mayor Jeff Buckley; Council of Community Housing Organizations Co-Director Fernando Martí; UC Center for Community Innovation postdoctoral research fellow Miriam Zuk; and Bay Area Council Policy Director Adrian Covert.
The night started with a 22-minute film telling stories of Mission residents old and new, with one stretch of Shotwell Street serving as a microcosm of neighborhood change. There was the story of a resident of over five decades, who refuses to accept the exorbitant offers for his Victorian home, preferring to spend his last days in his longtime community. Another story put a face on the fears of those in rent-controlled units, with a building’s recent sale leaving the future uncertain for a 25-year denizen of the Mission. A newcomer in the tech sector told of arriving from London to live in the Mission because the neighborhood offered everything he could want in an urban milieu. While all had different stories, they had one thing in common: a love of the Mission.
Granados: Advised that residents of the Mission making under $75K per household are rapidly declining, while those earning over $75K per year are quickly increasing, with there being urgency around the need to immediately turn this curve.
Arguello: Put forth the idea of an 18-month to two-year moratorium on building in the Mission. (District 9 Supervisor David Campos later spoke on the need for discourse on the possibility of such a moratorium, which was done in the Mission during the dot-com heyday.)
Buckley: Explained how Mayor Lee understands the need for affordable housing in the Mission.
Martí: Proposed that housing should be built at the same levels of income in the neighborhood, translating to half the units being priced for those making over the Mission’s median income and half at less than that income level.
Zuk: Lamented that there are no success models nationwide for situations such as the gentrification in the Mission, for this is a new problem, with cities having only battled issues around declining populations in the past 50 years.
Covert: Told of the need for regional policy among the 100 cities of the Bay Area and how Silicon Valley needs to start constructing housing to accommodate the newcomers employed in the jobs being created in the tech sector.
There was then time for a few questions from the audience, with heartfelt stories exemplifying the stresses in the neighborhood. When one attendee asked if there would be follow up to tonight’s event, Granados expressed his commitment to do so in a few months after MEDA, community organizations, the mayor’s office and Supervisor Campos had come up with a cohesive plan to address the need for affordable housing in the Mission–talks that have been underway.
An interesting evening was had by all over two hours, with everyone realizing that there is much hard work to be done to keep the Mission an inclusive place.
Summed up Granados, “We collectively have to have a sense of urgency.”