Activists to protest Bayview project with march, rally 

Organizers link S.F. policies on redevelopment with 40th anniversary of teen’s death

An African-American teenager’s death at the hands of a police officer 40 years ago is related to The City’s current 1,300-acre redevelopment project scheduled for the southeast side, organizers of a rally and march scheduled for today say.

Redevelopment Agency officials, however, say the comparison is inflammatory and inaccurate.

The death of 16-year-old Matthew Johnson, a suspected car thief, spurred rioting for days in the wake of his Sept. 27, 1966, shooting in Bayview-Hunters Point. The 40th anniversary of Johnson’s death, activists say, is the proper time to bring attention to what they say is the ongoing policy of ignoring the African-American community’s wishes.

The teen’s death led to meetings between the then-mayor and members of the community, said Marcia Rosen, executive director of The City’s Redevelopment Agency. Those meetings were the first time the idea of redeveloping Bayview-Hunters Point came up, Rosen said.

"We have to get back to the facts" surrounding the event, the executive director said.

Little has changed in the last 40 years given that the African-American community’s wishes continue to be ignored, said Alicia Schwartz, an organizer with the nonprofit group POWER, which is helping organize today’s afternoon march in Bayview-Hunters Point.

Last week’s announcement that a petition with more than 21,000 signatures won’t stop the massive redevelopment plan for The City’s southeast side or allow the measure to go before voters next year demonstrates a lack of community control in Bayview-Hunters Point, Schwartz said.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced Sept. 19 that the petition, aimed at halting the redevelopment project, was invalid. Petition supporters said the $188 million redevelopment overhaul would shift control from the African-American residents who live there and displace them as wealthier residents make the area their home.

Rosen said the community has been involved every step of the way in creating the redevelopment plan, which was hatched during more than a decade of hundreds of community meetings.

"This is a way to revitalize their neighborhood," Rosen said. "This does not transfer land to the Redevelopment Agency."

Roughly half of the $188 million project will pay for affordable housing, the executive director said. The plan is intended to make the community more livable and revitalize an area that has suffered economically, officials say.

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