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Outer Sunset NIMBYs Mutilate Star Wars Metaphor to Stop a Building

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Image via @MMSFOceanBeach on twitter

A proposed 20-unit project in the Outer Sunset across 45th Avenue from Outerlands has gotten a local Green Party activist up in arms. The future 3945 Judah St., which would take up a vacant lot that was formerly a gas station, would basically be a model of transit-adjacent urban infill development. Its affordable-unit percentage is low at roughly 25 percent, but that’s not what neighborhood resident Mike Murphy objects to. In filing an appeal, he cites possible groundwater contamination mere blocks from the ocean as the primary sticking point.

Current Street view of 3945 Judah St. in San Francisco shows the abandoned gas station currently there.

Hoodline notes that the city’s Planning Department disagrees, and that Murphy’s platform for his District 4 supervisor campaign basically stated an opposition to all new development — even though the entire Outer Sunset has only seen 21 additional units built since 2011. In other words, it’s their neighborhood and no one else can live in it.

As such, the fight against it as a “toxic” project has already taken on cartoonish dimensions. Supposedly, 3945 Judah looks like a Sandcrawler, the giant junkatorium from Star Wars that creepy-cute Jawas drive across Tattooine hoping to sell defective R2 units to hapless moisture farmers. The problem, though, is that it doesn’t.

I’ll give you the gray ground-floor matching the Sandcrawler’s giant treads, and in a neighborhood full of pink homes and surf shops, earth tones should be a no-go. But at the risk of defending an aesthetically unappealing rendering, that’s it. A very slightly angled window in an upper corner unit isn’t gonna cut it, particularly because this isn’t just harmless online mockery but a threadbare excuse not to build any housing in a neighborhood where virtually no residential construction has happened in a decade.

postmodern carbuncle at the southeast corner of Hayes and Gough

And if you don’t like goofy angles, avert thine eyes from the postmodern carbuncle at the southeast corner of Hayes and Gough, which is much whimsier and more dated and also the color of the office of an orthodontist whose license to practice was revoked. Also, if you want to pretend you’re in Return of the Jedi, have a drink inside the View bar atop the Mariott Marquis, which feels like you’re peering out of the second Death Star.

But of course, opposition to the Jawa-on-Judah isn’t about Star Wars. It’s about Padawan NIMBYs using even the flimsiest pretext to stop any and all development in a neighborhood that has shouldered none of the burden in addressing San Francisco’s housing emergency. There is a great disturbance in the Force, an imbalance between community-eviscerating overdevelopment in historically working class, Filipino- and Latino-heavy neighborhoods like SoMa and the Mission versus middle-class areas zoned for single-family dwellings. This is inequitable and unjust.

Doubtless, many Outer Sunset residents fear any new construction as a Trojan horse that will inevitably lead to displacement and a radically different neighborhood. But the responses to Murphy’s tweet include a number of points dinging his environmentalist credentials. Opposing development in the core municipality of a region with 7 million people inevitably generates sprawl at the periphery, meaning more wasteful McMansions and longer, CO2-spewing commutes. Appeals to the notion of a city neighborhood as some unblemished pastoral are simply dishonest.

This is the kind of local skirmish that will go on and on, happening again and again, with factions of the city’s hard left allying with affluent homeowners to maintain an untenable status quo. The xenophobia shouldn’t be ignored, either. As even C-3P0 — a protocol droid trained to be diplomatic! — says of the scrap dealers and their giant armored vehicle, “I can’t stand those Jawas. Disgusting creatures.”

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Peter-Astrid Kane

Peter-Astrid Kane

Peter-Astrid Kane (they/them) is the Communications Manager for San Francisco Pride and a former editor of SF Weekly.