Some, Affordable Housing Coming to the Mission SF
Beauty and the Beast on Bryant
By Josh Wolf
You can’t fight city hall, but if you bang your head against the wall hard enough it will eventually begin to crack.
Thursday night, the Planning Commission voted to approve a plan known as the “Beast on Bryant” to demolish the building that once housed Cell Space, a legendary arts collective that thrived in San Francisco’s Mission District for nearly 20 years, and to build two new apartment buildings in its place. One of the buildings would hold 196 apartments that only the rich can afford; the other building would include 139 affordable units that would be priced for those making less than 60 percent of the average Bay Area income, or about $43,000 for a single adult.
It’s not surprising that the Planning Commission approved developer Nick Podell’s plan to build luxury housing in the Mission. Podell was scheduled to go before the Commission in September with a previous incarnation that involved building only one building instead of two. But he pulled his application at the last minute in the face of community protest. The revised version create significantly more affordable housing by separating the project into two buildings and also offered to restore a small percent of the arts space lost by the destruction of the old building.
During the interim period, the community met to develop its own proposal for the site, and I was one of the people who participated in the months-long process of creating a plan for what was coined the ‘Beauty on Bryant‘. The proposal includes a number of detailed suggestions, but the main points include calling on Podell to donate half the total land to the city for to build affordable housing, preserving the 50,000 square-feet of space on the ground floor for arts and industrial uses that existed on the original site, and relying on 100-percent union labor to construct the new project.
That call for union labor created a schism that intensified after the Carpenters In Action (CIA) reached an agreement with Podell and began rallying for the project while other unions tried to secure their own assurances. Those assurances never came and at Thursday’s meeting members of organized labor spoke out against the project, while nearly 50 members of CIA spent the day at the Planning Commission and managed to secure most of the seats in the room.
“It’s shocking to see that the trade unions are not supporting this project,” said Commissioner Kathrin Moore. “I’ve never heard the unions stand here and say what they said today and that leaves me concerned.”
Although that crack in Podell’s plan wasn’t severe enough for his whole proposal to collapse. It did help the community secure additional space for arts and industrial uses in the ground floor of his market-rate building. While the concession is far from a complete victory, the planning commission seemed more committed to protecting affordable housing and arts space in the city than at previous meetings.
This isn’t the end of the line though, and community activists say they plan to appeal the Planning Commission’s ruling to the Board of Supervisors.