While trendy Valencia Street nightspots were filled as usual last Wednesday night with San Franciscans blowing off steam after work, a community that has been gaining steam for years met at Centro del Pueblo to engage in a historic discussion.
Thirteen community-based organizations – now under the name United to Save the Mission – collectively decided a plan of action with over a hundred residents. The topic: affordable housing. Specifically how the money from Prop A, passed last November with 75 percent of the vote, should be prioritized in the Mission.
Prop A was the first housing bond passed in San Francisco since 1996. The total of this bond – put forth to address housing-affordability issues in an increasingly costly market – was set at $310 million.
Of that money, $50 million was earmarked for the Mission, the neighborhood hardest hit by the housing crisis. As proof of that statement, consider that a mere 7 percent of housing in the Mission’s pipeline is set as affordable, well under the City’s stated target of one-third.
A report entitled “An Assessment of Housing and Housing Affordability in the Mission Promise Neighborhood” offered some specific numbers. This report estimated that 2,400 low- to moderate-income residents’ units be retained or replaced to maintain the Mission as a working-class neighborhood and Latino cultural hub.
The goal of last Wednesday’s meeting was to ensure that the community has a say in how this $50 million will be spent, as part of a plan to make the above happen.
This community meeting also represented three years of community advocacy and solidarity, ranging from street rallies and individual political actions to grassroots organizing and filling City Hall to the rafters to demand aggressive solutions.
MEDA played an integral part by leading the creation of the Mission Action Plan 2020 (MAP 2020). A central piece of MAP 2020 was the implementation of an ongoing series of monthly meetings, since April 2015, that serves as a forum for City staff to directly request community input in funding priorities for affordable housing in the neighborhood.
The clear growth in the community’s power was then demonstrated last summer by the speed in which signatures were gathered for Prop I, the pause on luxury housing in the Mission District. Prop I made it to last November’s ballot, and while the measure garnered major support in the Mission, it unfortunately did not pass because the “Yes” side was vastly outspent by developers on the “No” side. Despite this loss, a movement was solidified.
This momentum of this movement led to a neighborhood having the impetus to put collective pressure on elected officials to allocate more funds to the Mission for affordable housing.
The advent of this movement has been loss, real and anticipated, of a community no longer feeling they will be able to remain part of their neighborhood of choice. These feelings are based in fact, as the Mission has seen dire displacement of low-income and working-class residents (8,000 in the past decade, with the majority Latinos).
Those most vulnerable to housing instability are homeless individuals and families, very low-income people, those with children, transitional-aged youth (18– to 24-year-olds), seniors on a fixed income and persons living with disabilities. Many in attendance last night met these demographics. They came because years of action had led to their knowing that they will represented – that they now have a say in their future.
There were four options presented to the community, with detailed explanations given for each and questions answered. This was done via small-group discussions, in Spanish and English.
Based on the group discussions, community members then cast votes for their priorities.
The community decided the priority should be to buy land and build now. The second choice was to buy land and build later. In third was the rehab of existing Single-Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels.
The next step
There is a follow-up community meeting next week to determine how to present last night’s prioritization to the powers that be at City Hall. United to Save the Mission will deliver this message on behalf of the community.
One resident of the Mission, Manuela from Alabama Street in the Mission Promise Neighborhood footprint, was compelled to come to the meeting out of fear of displacement. She explained, “I’ve seen too many of my neighbors have to move. They were all hardworking people who loved their neighborhood. They helped make the Mission what it is. I don’t want to be next.”
Manuela’s voice has been heard … as has a community’s.