Housing Crisis

Community Raises Need for More Affordable Housing in Excelsior District

The proposed development at 65 Ocean Ave would replace the Little Bear Preschool.

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Some 50 community members attended the Communities United for Health and Justice’s monthly District 11 housing justice meeting on Aug. 21 to listen to a presentation from developers of a large mix-used project at 65 Ocean Ave.

The proposed 133-unit building sits at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Alemany Boulevard and currently houses preschool Little Bear School.

“Our architectural team has been working very hard over the last six months,” said Cyrus Sanandaji of Presidio Bay Ventures as he showed revised plans for the building’s exterior, including a new garage entrance on Ocean Avenue. “We’ve been meeting with all the stakeholders to ensure this is a community-driven process.”

But explanation of metal railings, public art and color palettes was cut short by the crowd.

“None of this matters — the design,” said Father John Jimenez, of St. Charles Borromeo parish on South Van Ness Avenue. “We care about affordability.”

His working-class congregation, many of them janitors and domestic workers, would not be likely able to afford the market-rate units, Jimenez said.

“Your building is nice, but it reminds me of a lot of other buildings I see down in South of Market, and all over the city,” said lifelong neighborhood resident Gilbert Williams of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. “It reminds me of what’s taking place everywhere, and that is gentrification: pushing out poorer people who can’t afford your beautiful building.”

“It doesn’t look like anything in our neighborhood — that’s the first problem,”

Williams added. “The second is: How many affordable units are there going to be? Is it going to raise up the rest of the rents in the neighborhood?”

That a large market-rate development would encourage gentrification was a repeated concern, and similar questions drew applause.

Many expressed confusion over the affordable unit requirements and inclusionary housing based on San Francisco’s ever-climbing area median income (AMI), with one community member saying he’d read in the Light that a six-figure salary was needed to apply for affordable housing.

The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development bases its grid off of an average income of $80,700 — a citywide median bolstered by an influx of extremely wealthy residents.

For all future approved market rate projects over 10 units, the affordable housing breakdown is: Ten percent of units reserved for renters making up to 55 percent of the AMI; 4 percent of units reserved for 80 percent of the AMI; and 4 percent of units reserved for 110 percent of the AMI.

The Excelsior’s median income is $66,771, according to real estate website Trulia. Some “affordable units” must be rented to people earning more than the median. For instance, a single person earning a yearly $88,750 (over $20,000 more than the Excelsior’s median income) will qualify for four percent of the units at 65 Ocean Ave.

District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai supports the new higher income requirements, designed to protect middle-income earners, and advocated for the newly-adopted reduction of mandated affordable units, to 18 percent, a move he said was necessary to encourage housing development. A report from the Controller’s Office supports his claim.

The new requirements are at odds with last year’s Proposition C, which voters overwhelmingly approved. The proposition required developers to designate a quarter of rental units as affordable, with 15 percent of the units reserved for low-income residents.

One frustrated community member said that she’d often been to City Hall, and felt ignored.

“I know you have a supervisor who represents everyone who lives here,” Sanandaji replied, prompting cries of, “He doesn’t represent us!”, “Where is he?” and “Where’s Ahsha?”

Former District 11 Supervisor John Avalos was in attendance, and addressed the crowd briefly in Spanish.

CUHJ meets from 6 – 8 p.m. on the third Monday of each month at Excelsior Works, 5000 Mission St. Food and childcare are provided.

Original community journalism takes money, time and hard work. You can now support the Light on Patreon. Visit www.patreon.com/ielight to sign up.

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