Weighing a landlord's promise - Page 3

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

Tenant rights activist Calvin Welch, who had not yet seen the latest draft of the development agreement when the Guardian caught up with him, said "we're agnostic" on the rent-control provision until having had a chance to carefully vet the final agreement. Yet he said the tenants were "absolutely right to be concerned," given the recent legal precedent.

Sup. Sean Elsbernd, whose District 7 includes Parkmerced, said he tuned into the hearings though he did not attend. Elsbernd said he would feel comfortable moving forward with the plan as long as he had assurance from the City Attorney's Office that the agreement was enforceable. "I don't want to see that project go forward without certainty," he said.

Christina Olague, vice president of the Planning Commission, acknowledged the strong concerns voiced by residents about the coming changes to the property. "We have to be sensitive to the emotions that we witnessed that day," Olague said. "We have to balance out a lot of different needs."

At the Dec. 16 meeting, more residents made comments echoing the furious opposition expressed on Dec. 9. At the same time, a small contingent of residents who favored the plan turned out to urge commissioners to approve it.

"I have witnessed consistent honesty from one source — the owner of Parkmerced, Rob Rosania," Daniel Phillips, who identified himself as president of the Board of Directors of the Parkmerced Residents' Organization, noted in written comments submitted to commissioners. "As long as I have known Rob Rosania and Stellar Management, they have made promises and kept them."

Yet it was clear that many other tenants were not convinced, and on Dec. 9, several lamented the idea that their homes would be knocked down and their longstanding community impacted by the new development.

Residents who oppose the development recently formed a new residents organization called the Parkmerced Action Coalition. Members of that group are opposed to the wholesale demolition of the 1,500 garden apartments and would rather see them retrofitted and preserved.

"We are living in panic," a woman who had lived in Parkmerced for many years told commissioners. "I am completely opposed to the tear-down of our community."