The sale of the former National Guard armory on Mission Street has caused a flurry of concern about the plans for the site of the new owner and developer, Kink.com. Most of the columns and editorials in the San Francisco Chronicle, Examiner, and BeyondChron.com have been reactionary and politically opportunistic. It has given the cheerleaders of runaway market-rate development a new reason to knock affordable housing advocates in general and the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition in particular.
For the past six years, MAC, with the participation of hundreds of Mission District residents, has been developing a vision for the neighborhood, called the People's Plan, which confronts the gentrification pressures of new development and sets out policies for a healthy, sustainable community. Our approach is not that of knee-jerk NIMBYs mindlessly opposing any proposed change in our community. We are in favor of affordable housing, good-paying jobs for immigrants and working-class families, and sustainable economic development.
However, immediately after the Kink.com story broke, writers such as Ken Garcia blamed MAC for directly causing the sale to what other papers are calling a "porn production company." It's true that MAC has opposed the previous three development proposals, but the developers themselves, responding to the ups and downs of the market, ultimately dropped the projects for financial reasons. Here's a brief review:
In 2000 a multimedia office complex proposal was approved by the Planning Department and later dropped. The armory was then going to be a server farm. The server farm was approved by the Planning Department again (contrary to what Garcia has written), but the company went under. A local financier retained control and proposed an outlandish and financially risky housing proposal.
The luxury housing proposal went into the planning process, and an environmental review had begun, but instead, the owner sold the site to Kink.com
MAC didn't know the owner was secretly negotiating the sale of the armory. Had the financiers been honest with the community, perhaps the city or some other entity could have come forward and put the armory to better use. But at this point, the sale of the armory is complete, and there's no further process necessary for the new owners to set up shop. That means it's difficult for the community or city to stop the proposed use.
Now the community finds itself responding to this purchase and to opportunists who are taking advantage of this situation to use the current plan as a wedge issue to attack MAC and other affordable housing activists who have had concerns about high-end market-rate housing development in the Mission. The Mission is both the heart of the Latino community in San Francisco and home to other communities. For a healthy and sustainable community, a measuring stick for a development project is whether it will lead to displacement of residents and community-serving businesses and contribute to gentrification.
MAC will continue to fight for equitable development through the People's Plan and the Mission rezoning process and will continue to challenge all projects that have the potential to negatively impact our community. *
Eric Quezada and Nick Pagoulatos
Eric Quezada and Nick Pagoulatos are Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition activists.