With an Aztec dancer and rhythmic drumbeats leading the way, hundreds of San Francisco’s Mission District community members today took to the street, specifically the Mission Street corridor. United to Save the Mission — a coalition of a dozen longtime neighborhood groups and organizations that works to enhance and protect the lives of low- to moderate-income residents, Latinx culture, artists, community-serving businesses and blue-collar workers -– put together the important event. (MEDA is a member of United to Save the Mission.)
The aim of the march was to underscore the need to retain and promote community-serving businesses, build more affordable housing for residents, plan for transit equity and preserve the street for generations to come by establishing a new Latinx cultural corridor, thereby minimizing the effects of Mission Street becoming a tourist destination, as has already occurred on neighboring Valencia Street. Thus the ongoing chants of “No Valencia Street on Mission Street!”
This community-led tour along Mission Street highlighted the current challenges and successes to date along the neighborhood’s main commercial corridor. There was a focus on Latinx, family-serving ventures that have for decades created assets and jobs in what was once a welcoming neighborhood to immigrants, but has seen one of the nation’s widest income gaps cause gentrification and displacement at unprecedented rates since the year 2000.
The tour comprised six stops along the route before winding up at City Hall. Speakers showcased successes to date, including nonprofit HOMEY, now securely in a long-term space at 2217 Mission St. because of the City’s Small Sites Program, which afforded MEDA the opportunity to buy the property and keep it from speculators. An example of a challenge was exemplified by the Mission and 17th streets’ Dollar Store, slated become luxury condos.
The noon march commenced at Mission and 20th streets, ending at City Hall in time for a rally and for community members to testify before the San Francisco Planning Commission meeting about the luxury housing and commercial space project at 2750 19th St., known as the “Baby Beast on Bryant.” Such luxury housing has overrun the community in recent years.
The community seeks a prioritization of Mission Street affordable housing over luxury housing, the latter a catalyst for the conversion of family-serving retail spaces. When such affordable retail establishments are replaced by brew pubs — and nonprofit arts spaces are converted to office space serving private enterprises — the community loses its ability to remain economically and culturally diverse, part of what gives the Mission District its rich and deep identity as a neighborhood of opportunity. The site tour detailed the gentrifying effects that have led, or are leading to, the displacement of residents, small businesses, arts and cultural organizations, nonprofits and single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels.
The following are the main community demands for the Mission Street commercial corridor:
- The community demands commercial equity. The City should commit to commercial site acquisition with a permanent source of funding to help stabilize Mission Street, the neighborhood’s central family corridor. Consistent with Planning Code priorities to retain neighborhood character, Mission Street should be empowered to keep the critical neighborhood-serving businesses on which its families rely, and stop the massive influx of high-end restaurants, bars, brew pubs, luxury housing projects and expensive coffee shops onto Mission Street. Immediate additional resources are needed to support our neighborhood-serving small businesses as they face the stress of changing demographics and increased rents, transforming into a destination corridor for high-earners and tourists.
- The community demands housing equity. For example, there should be no luxury housing at the 16th BART Plaza. The ripple effect of the massive influx of high-income earners in our low-income, immigrant community is already being felt, with rents rising and local businesses closing. Mission Street should require a greater affordable-housing percentage on Mission Street, to retain the community’s low-income residents. and not allow the State Density Bonus Law to drive its affordable housing down into the teens again. The will of San Franciscans should be implemented: Voters demanded 25 percent affordability for Mission housing developments by passing Prop C in November 2016.
- The community demands transit equity. The SFMTA should immediately fix the Mission Street 14 Muni bus Red Lanes — put in without fair community input — and begin to thoughtfully plan its transit changes with socioeconomic studies and community engagement. These recent changes along the main commercial corridor of the neighborhood removed more than 5,000 cars per day, leading to a substantial customer loss for the mom-and-pop businesses of the corridor.
- Establish a Latino Cultural Corridor. To preserve and enhance the culture of Mission Street, and keep its families and small businesses thriving for years to come, we require immediate and permanent funding to establish this cultural corridor, as well as increased commercial and small-business protections.
The Mission community’s voice was definitely heard.