Jake McGoldrick has put himself in an embarrassing position.
His Better Neighborhoods Plus legislation, now before the Planning Commission, is the first serious attempt to link the impact that new development has on a community with mitigation measures which benefit that community.
But at the very same time, he is engaged in a pissing match with South of Market activists as the community faces enormous gentrification pressures from developments such as the Rincon Hill plan. Jake is arguing that the bounty of development fees that developers have agreed to pay should be spread all over the city. That's a contradiction.
Between 2001-2004 South of Market saw the addition of 2,926 new units of housing. That's more housing than was produced in the entire remainder of the city during that same period. Now, even as the Transbay, Mid-Market and 6th Street Redevelopment Plans near final approval, developers are preparing to begin the construction of 3,675 new residential units in high-rises between Folsom Street and the freeway in the Rincon Hill neighborhood of SoMa.
Nowhere in the city is the contrast between the haves and have-nots more stark. Ten years ago, South of Market was a sleepy mixed-use community, in the shadow of the Financial District, consisting of service and light industries with a residential population at the very bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Suddenly the dot-coms swept away many of the blue collar jobs and million dollar lofts appeared.
Better Neighborhoods Plus is a community planning process Jake has proposed that is meant to assess the infrastructure and community amenities that are lacking and that anticipates the additional demands new development will place on the community. The goal of the legislation is to finance these improvements.
South of Market is not a "better" neighborhood but we still love it. The sewers back up during heavy rains. We lack sidewalks, parks and open space. The street grid functions as an adjunct to the state highway system and tons of pollutants invade our homes. Public transit is spotty. We lack adequate educational facilities, job training programs, senior and community centers. Most of all, we desperately need more affordable housing.
SoMa is the heart of San Francisco's District 6. It is a district characterized by the SRO hotels of the Tenderloin, North Mission and the 6th Street corridor. The concentration of so much poverty has made the district the most reliably progressive in the city, as demonstrated by the unwavering support Supervisor Chris Daly enjoys.
The influx of thousands of new luxury condo owners will amount to a de-facto redistricting of District 6.
During his early years on the Board of Supervisors, Gavin Newsom proposed turning a 40 square block section of South of Market into a nighttime entertainment zone. The burden of sound-proofing would have been transferred from the offending nightclubs to the complaining homeowners. Portions of the Planning Department's own Good Neighbor policy would have been repealed ... and Newsom abused us that we were wasting our time protesting this because "the Mayor [Willie Brown] wants this to happen." Brown later remarked that "those people don't vote for me anyway."
Reality check: that's how planning used to get done in this city and that's what Better Neighborhoods Plus is supposed to fix. But in response to the tireless efforts of the SoMa Community Coalition, and in particular by the Filipino community of South of Market, Jake blew them off. What impacts? he bellowed. He won't even agree that the inclusionary housing generated by the Rincon Hill projects should remain in SoMa.
In response to legislation creating a SoMa Community Stabilization Fund, proposed by Chris Daly, Jake is now offering SoMa 25% of the Rincon Hill fees. Is that how his Better Neighborhoods plan will work? When the Geary Boulevard neighbors decide to impose higher fees for increased density along the corridor, do we all show up to argue that we deserve 75% of them? There is absolutely no honor on Jake's part attempting to sabotage the SoMa stabilization fund legislation. There is no public benefit served by offering up competitive legislation. If Jake believes in mitigating the impacts of development on a given community, South of Market is where the rubber hits the road. He should be a co-sponsor of the SoMa Community Stabilization Fund, not the enemy of it.
McGoldrick becomes an accomplice to all who find "those people" an impediment to more unregulated development in SoMa by denying South of Market the necessary mitigations to rescue this community.
Jim Meko is a South of Market activist, currently serving as chair of both the SoMa Leadership Council and the Western SoMa Citizens Planning Task Force and is a member of San Francisco's Entertainment Commission. Here at the Bulldog, of course, he's expressing his own personal opinions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.