Weighing a landlord's promise

Parkmerced developer says rent control will be protected under new plan, but tenant advocates voice concerns

An artist's rendering of the new Parkmerced, with more highrises and fewer garden apartments


Emotions ran high at meetings held by the San Francisco Planning Commission about a massive overhaul of Parkmerced, a housing complex located next to San Francisco State University that is a neighborhood unto itself.

The plan envisions tearing down 1940s-era garden apartments and townhomes to make way for new low-rises and high-rises that would contain a mix of rental housing and for-sale units. Over the course of a construction project spanning three decades, Parkmerced would expand to 8,900 units — enough to triple the number of residents who can now be accommodated. Final approval for the project is expected in March at the earliest.

Some 150 residents turned out at a Dec. 9 special meeting held near Parkmerced to make it more accessible for seniors and people with limited mobility. Although commissioners had planned to open with a staff presentation, residents protested and demanded to speak first, and their request was granted. After listening to residents comment for hours, commissioners continued the discussion until the Dec. 16 meeting, which drew a smaller turnout.

While some residents were pleased by the plans, the majority who attended the first meeting expressed alarm and anxiety. People aired concerns about the long construction timeline, increased density, traffic congestion, and the impact the plan would have on a well-established, multigenerational community. Many of the speakers had been born at Parkmerced or raised families there. The comments portrayed an economically diverse neighborhood supporting close-knit circles of friends and family.

One question that seemed to have residents rattled most was whether they could trust the developer's promise that their rent control would be preserved, even after their existing apartments have been torn down.

Among them was octogenarian Robert Pender, a founding member of the Parkmerced Residents' Organization, who hobbled from his wheelchair to the podium to deliver his statement for the public record. "Parkmerced is my home, and I'm not going to be evicted because some landlord wants to make some more money," he announced. After making his comments, Pender turned to face the audience, lifted his cane in the air, and issued a rally cry that captured the sentiment of the evening: "fight!"

Under the development plan, 1,500 apartments would be razed to make way for new residential units. The midcentury garden apartments open out to shared courtyards and patios. Many house tenants who've lived at Parkmerced for decades. For elderly residents or those who have disabilities, the exceptionally low rent makes it possible for them to stay in San Francisco despite limited income.

From the outset, Parkmerced Investors LLC and Stellar Management have promised existing tenants that they will be relocated to replacement units with roughly the same square footage, where they'll continue to pay the same monthly rates and keep their rent control. The developer has even promised to keep the existing apartments intact until the new units are available so that none of the residents will have to move twice.

"Our promise to our residents is that we will preserve the rent control," said P.J. Johnston, a spokesperson for the developer. "Our attorneys believe that the rent-control protections are absolutely ironclad."

Johnston emphasized the big picture: "For decades, progressive San Francisco has been talking about the need for developing large chunks of affordable housing, for increasing density on the west side, and for creating more housing around transit. Here we finally have the opportunity to do all that while introducing major transit improvements and extending rent control."


what is not included is;

a) the loss of openspace
b) the impacts of SFSU-CSU
c) cummalative impacts on Parkmerced as a single neighborhood by multiple developments.
d) lack of direct addressing of transit funding and major infrastructure.
e) a lack of preservation, and sustainable infill development
f) the lack of addressing of the existing towers that have NOT been structurally retrofitted.
g) use of the mills-act to look seriously at the feasibility of funding.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2010 @ 11:45 pm

Calvin Welch is a Haight Ashbury homeowner (acquired via eviction of previous tenants) and gets paid as the head of the nonprofit affordable housing developer cartel "Council of Community Housing Organizations."

Tenant rights activist? Puhleeze!

With Brown toadie P.J. Johnston and Calvin Welch in the mix, it is only a matter of time before Welch folds on command for a pittance of subsidy for CCHO's HOs.


Posted by marcos on Dec. 22, 2010 @ 10:59 am

We're supposed to read your critique of Calvin's bonafides and treat that seriously? You can disagree with his role and strategy, but Calvin has done more - through direct political effort - to protect low income tenants in this city than all of your holier than thou theorizing will ever accomplish.

Posted by yentu on Dec. 22, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

The Tenants Union has shifted billions of dollars from the pockets of landlords into those of tenants over the past 25 years, not the CCHO and Welch.


Posted by socram on Dec. 22, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

Another important point about the rent control proposal in the Parkmerced deal is that, even if for the sake of argument, we blindly assume the deal is somehow enforceable, the agreement is only with current tenants.

The whole point of rent control in San Francisco is to guarantee -permanent- affordable housing stock.

So even if the current tenants get a decent deal, San Francisco will still be losing over 1500 permanent rent controlled units by the middle of this century.

That loss is unacceptable.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 22, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

SFSU-CSU bought Stonestown Apartments and UPS blocks (part of Parkmerced) this purchase was a -1,000+ unit loss prior to any future build-out. With the increased TIC, condo-conversion, and owner-move-in efforts, we see steadily the effect in the suburbs of sprawl, and improper expenditure on roads to nowhere. We need adequate investment in infrastructure, build-up along ALL major transit routes, and sincere efforts not to improperly affect one community, without spreading the development into all neighborhoods cummalatively. CEQA is supposed to ensure a balanced approach, what is being presented terms itself "green" but is only green-$-greed, a wolf in sheep's clothing......

Pay attention to the developer agreement, what does a "washer-dryer-dishwasher" in every unit have to do with "sustainability"?

The MOU with SF-State was withuot "teeth" what makes the city think it is serving the public's best interests in these "negotiations" with corporations and financial sharks?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 23, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

For years, the suddenly militant languished doing nothing for themselves or their fellow residents. They in fact defaulted consistently on any commitments they made. This virus called "Parkmerced Action Coalition" is a hate based, poorly researched retaliation for the ills several very unhappy people have decided were caused by Parkmerced Investors, LLC. One former memberm, used her position to get employment through Rob Rosania for her daughter. Another "activist" moved out of Parkmerced when he could not gain a two bedroom townhouse at the same rate as a one bedroom flat. Another "militant" often flees to Humboldt county where she is undertaking her own property development. This list could go on and on, but these people discredit themselves each time they speak. They use fear tactics to gain support from fellow residents, and ignore the materials presented by a world-wide gathering of experts. Many resident comments were considered, but the "coalition" behaved like playground bullies towards anyone who varied in the least from their bigotry.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

The Jan 21 remarks of 'Guest' are total nonsense. I've been joining in with the residents of Parkmerced to fight this ridiculous, environmentally disastrous, demolition for profit scheme by Fortress investors, for several months now, in my role as an SF Green Party organizer, and personally witnessed over 150 current residents of the Parkmerced community turn out to one hearing to oppose this monstrosity.

They vastly outnumber the tiny faction of residents that has turned out to shill for the developers.

Why don't you name yourself 'Guest', so we can have a real public debate about this with people knowing just whose interest is being served by your deceptions.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jan. 21, 2011 @ 9:31 pm