SF Planners Approve Plan to Curb Gentrification, Extend Interim Controls

San Francisco Planning Commissioners on Thursday approved a land use and policy plan designed to mitigate the effects of gentrification and displacement in the Mission District.

The seven commissioners also agreed to a nine-month extension on 14-month-old restrictions that require some projects to undergo more stringent review.

The policy plan, called the Mission Action Plan 2020, is the product of a two-year collaborative effort between the city and an array of neighborhood nonprofits and advocacy organizations.

The vote was unanimous at at the planning commission, but the plan will go next to the Board of Supervisors.

It recommends a variety of protections and support systems for vulnerable tenants of both residential and commercial spaces. The objective is to keep the Mission’s cultural diversity from evaporating by the year 2020, an inevitability without these interventions according to the plan’s projections.

Its seven-pronged approach includes efforts to improve tenant protections, preserving single room occupancy rooms, preserving affordable housing, building new affordable housing, supporting existing community-serving businesses, improving community access to the city’s planning processes, and addressing homelessness.

As both members of the Planning Department and the community organizations noted, the remain divided on the effects of adding market-rate housing.

While some advocacy groups emphasize the importance of building any and all housing to ameliorating the housing crisis, several organizations in the Mission have consistently opposed large market-rate projects.  They argue that market rate housing hastens gentrification because these attract wealthier residents.

“The Impact of…market rate housing continues to be the sticking point between the community and the city,” acknowledged planner Claudia Flores.

Still, the city’s decision-making bodies have been cautious about approving large market-rate developments recently. The Board of Supervisors delayed a 157-unit project planned for 1515 South Van Ness Avenue to further study of its gentrification impacts. A similar project on Folsom Street has also been delayed for more study.

The interim controls extended on Thursday, which were set to expire in April, require additional authorizations for projects larger than 25 units, with even more scrutiny of those 75 units or larger. The controls require developers to demonstrate the efficiency of their projects, prove that a project will not take rental units off the market, and describe the rates of no-fault evictions within a quarter mile of the project.

Any development with more than a third of its units below-market-rate was deemed exempt from these controls.

The Commission agreed to a nine month extension, the maximum allowed.

But neighborhood groups are likely to continue to opposed market-rate housing. Chirag Bhakta of the Mission Housing Development Corporation called for further mitigation of displacement and “rapacious market forces.”

Depending on legislation, MAP 2020 could also review height limitations along the 24th Street corridor and maybe allow certain production, distribution and repair services there.

Also part of the package are recently introduced changes to space meant for light industrial uses proposed jointly by the Mayor and District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen.

Nobody at the meeting voiced outright dissent to the plan, though a few called for a delay on the approving it  – one commenter out of concern that it failed to do enough to encourage housing production, and another because certain neighborhood groups had not heard of the proposal. Commissioners and organizers, meanwhile, praised the collaborative process behind the plan.

“I think there is hardly any piece of planning which has as deep a root in the community that is affected by it as this one does,” said Commissioner Kathrin Moore.

“The level of trust building that has happened over the last two years is something I feel particularly proud of,” said Planning Director John Rahaim.