Neighborhood comes together in hopes of slowing gentrification 

click to enlarge Esperanza Ramos and her son saw their rent rise from $1,741 a month to $2,875 after she refused an $8,000 buyout offer. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Esperanza Ramos and her son saw their rent rise from $1,741 a month to $2,875 after she refused an $8,000 buyout offer.

A recent study that put numbers to countless anecdotes of shrinking Latino and low- to middle-income populations in the Mission prompted neighborhood leaders to pursue a new community-driven plan aimed at crafting legislation to help preserve housing and jobs for vulnerable residents.

Mission Action Plan 2020, as advocates call it, is intended to include policies and enforcement mechanisms to protect the neighborhood's longtime character — elements lacking in the prior community blueprint, the Mission Area Plan, which was adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2008.

Those behind the new plan hope city leaders will ultimately use it as a reference to adopt legislation to establish short-, medium- and long-term guidelines for stopping the bloodletting in the Mission.

Although the area plan incorporated research from focus groups, workshops and meetings among hundreds of Mission residents dating back to the dot-com boom, many of the goals weren't met.

Last month's study by the Mission Economic Development Agency and the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations revealed principles from the area plan that weren't upheld.

The plan's key points included increasing below-market-rate housing, minimizing displacement, preserving diversity and vitality, preserving and enhancing businesses and commercial areas, improving and developing additional community facilities and open space, and promoting alternative means of transportation to reduce traffic.

Gabriel Medina, the development agency's policy manager, said the area plan "demonstrates what happens when the entire community voice is not adopted."

Displacement, Medina said, "is the most damning [shortcoming] of the Mission Area Plan because the Mission has always been the gateway, a sanctuary community for immigrants, for families and the working class."

The numbers appear to back up Medina's contention. For example, according to the the Mission Action Plan 2020 study, Latinos went from making up half of the Mission's population in 2000 to now less than 40 percent. Under current trends, that population is expected to dwindle to one-third by 2020. Between 2000 and 2013, 8,252 Latinos left the neighborhood.

Esperanza Ramos, 32, a housekeeper who has lived at a two-bedroom apartment at 3285 Cesar Chavez St. for a decade with her husband, a house painter, and three young children, said her landlord offered her family an $8,000 buyout, but they refused. Last month, their rent increased from $1,741 to $2,875.

Ramos is now fighting an eviction to stay in her Mission apartment.

"It's impossible for us to pay the rent he is demanding now," she said in Spanish. "I think he is doing that to push us out of this area. There is no other reason he would do it."

The study's numbers were drawn from the 2000 and 2010 censuses, American Community Survey 2013, and a 2013 budget and legislative analyst report requested by Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission.

Furthermore, since 2000, about 1,500 families earning less than $50,000 per year have been displaced, going from half of households in the Mission to one-third, the study states. About 1,500 additional families with incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 per year also left, going from a quarter of households to 13 percent. The former working-class families include day laborers, house cleaners, nannies and restaurant and hotel workers and the latter include health care workers, nonprofit staff and entry-level teachers.

click to enlarge Jaime Alfredo "Dogpaw" Carrillo was evicted from his flat on Capp Street after the landlord claimed his unit was illegal. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Jaime Alfredo "Dogpaw" Carrillo was evicted from his flat on Capp Street after the landlord claimed his unit was illegal.

A Mission native who falls in the lower end of that bracket is Jaime Alfredo "Dogpaw" Carrillo, 57, a visual artist whose annual income is $25,000 from unemployment. Carrillo, whose parents are from El Salvador, was evicted a few weeks ago from the second-story flat he lived in for 32 years on Capp Street, between 23rd and 24th streets. According to Carrillo, his landlord claimed the dwelling was a single-family home where a wall had previously been erected, making the unit illegal.

"We fought long and hard, but in the end, it was David versus Goliath and Goliath won," said Carrillo, who was left couchsurfing and currently stays with a friend on Treat Avenue. "It's unfortunate that it is that way but this is happening everywhere."

While the number of working-class families declined since 2000, in that time 211 households with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 per year have entered the Mission. Even more telling, 6,321 households making more than $100,000 per year moved in, a 700 percent increase. In 2000, households earning more than $150,000 made up 5 percent of the Mission and they now make up one-fourth, the study reports.

"It really means population replacement," Medina said, explaining that lower-income, longtime residents aren't able to compete for jobs and housing.

Latinos aren't the only ones struggling to stay in the Mission. Tom Anderson, a carpenter, said he was wrongfully accused by his landlord of nonpayment of rent and in September left his apartment on 26th Street between Treat Avenue and Folsom Street. He found another place to live in the neighborhood thanks to friends.

"It's as much or more of a class thing than anything," said Anderson, 51. "For me, housing is a human right that we all need and we all should have, yet there's this profit thing, so our lives are disposable for money. This city has just become like a theme park for rich people, literally."

In response, the organizations behind the study convened with city housing and planning officials and members of the community at Cesar Chavez Elementary School on Wednesday for the first assembly meeting to start a list of priority policies, funding and possible rezoning measures for the Mission Action Plan 2020.

The 100 or so attendees from the community split into Spanish- and English-speaking groups, each focused on proposing ideas around a topic — housing production, housing stability, business and residential displacement, funding strategies, or small businesses and jobs.

Perhaps the most popular proposal, one that Campos said his office has been ramping up efforts on, is a moratorium on market-rate housing production in the Mission.

"The City should look at putting a pause on luxury housing, something that is probably affordable to no one in this room," Campos said, drawing applause.

Another proposal seeks to counteract the study's finding that new below-market-rate housing units are being built or acquired in the Mission at an average rate of 31 per year, while about 79 rent-controlled or single-room-occupancy units are being withdrawn from the stock annually.

If tenant associations and nonprofits join together and purchase housing complexes, "we can take [below-market-rate housing stock] out of the situation it is in now, where it is subject to the eviction pressures," said Fernando Marti, co-director of the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations.

Other highlights from the more than 100 ideas community members threw out include raising the height limit for below-market-rate projects, subjecting any building more than 20 years old to rent-control laws, establishing a dialogue process between landlords and tenants and requiring the tech sector to contribute financially to the neighborhood.

Mission Action Plan 2020 leaders hope to narrow down the plan's proposals by the second meeting, scheduled for June 24. By the third and final meeting in August, they hope to have a final list of policies aimed at protecting housing and jobs for Latinos, along with low- and middle-income families.

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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