Approve affordable housing -- for youth

Legislation regarding a crucial project to house low-income youth is on its way


OPINION Booker T. Washington, born as a slave, risked his life to learn to read and write and went on to found Tuskegee University. At his core, he believed that economic independence and access to education were the keys to equality. He put it best when he said: "There are two ways of exerting one's strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up."

Since 1919, the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center has worked to lift up San Franciscans of every background, with a particular focus on the African American community. To continue that vision, the center is embarking on a capital project that will provide 50 units of affordable housing to youth and families, along with new athletic and educational space.

The most critical part of the project is providing housing for transitional-age youth. Many of these young people age out of foster care with no family support, few job skills, and no chance to rent a market-rate apartment in this expensive city. The project represents a real commitment to these youth, who are overwhelmingly people of color. With affordable housing funding under threat at the federal and state levels, it's essential that shovel-ready projects get the green light from City Hall.

That is why we were thrilled when Sups. Ross Mirkarimi, Eric Mar, and Mark Farrell introduced the necessary legislation to allow this project to move forward. Joining hundreds of community leaders, countless families, and prominent African Americans, these supervisors lent their support for a project that continues the ongoing fight for economic justice.

It's also why we are concerned that a few neighbors are using their influence to push down on the hopes of San Francisco's youth. Some neighbors have asked that we add additional parking, even though the site is just a few blocks from Geary Boulevard and most low-income youth don't have cars. Others have suggested that we cut nine units to make the building shorter, even though San Francisco's housing needs are so acute. As is often the case in San Francisco, those who support progressive values need to speak up to ensure that we can overcome this campaign of misinformation and fear.

On April 28, the Planning Commission will consider whether to certify the environmental impact report for this project, and whether to approve it. We are hopeful that progressive voices speak out so we can provide hope and a future to youth in our community. As Booker T. often said: "Success is to be measured not so much by the position one has reached in life as by the obstacles one has overcome." 

Julian Davis is president of the board and Patricia Scott is executive director of the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center, located at 800 Presidio Ave. The Planning Commission hearing is Thursday, April 28 at City Hall, Room 400.


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