Not in our neighborhood

District 2 residents and supervisor oppose housing projects for at-risk young people

The Booker T. Washington Community Service Center would be expanded to include housing for at-risk young people

San Francisco faces an enormous shortage of affordable housing for young people at risk of homelessness, but a pair of projects intended to address the issue are under fire from neighborhood activists in supervisorial District 2, home to the city's wealthiest residents.

The proposed conversion of the defunct Edward II Hotel and the major overhaul at the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center (BTWCSC) could create a combined 74 units of affordable housing for vulnerable youth, complete with services and support systems to help young people coming from foster or homeless families.

"We are building houses for young people who are getting their start in life," said Julian Davis, president of the board of BTWCSC. "There was a great need for foster youth housing that has been studied ad nauseam ... Our center wanted to contribute."

But both projects have run into strong neighborhood opposition that appears to have turned D2 Sup. Mark Farrell against the projects as proposed, despite initial support for the BTWCSC project by both Farrell and his predecessor, Michela Alioto-Pier. Farrell's approach has frustrated project opponents and caused the representative of a neighboring district, Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, to sponsor the project.

"The project emanated from Michela Alioto-Pier and she supported the original project, which is why I joined her in support and it initially appeared that Sup. Farrell was joining that support," Mirkarimi told us, noting that he is continuing to champion the project because it borders his district and because "the Booker T center has a long reach and serves clients from throughout city."

After hearing from constituents concerned about parking, the size of the five-story building that is proposed, and other issues, Farrell dropped his sponsorship of the project and submitted alternative legislation that cut the building to four stories, presenting it to project proponents without their input as a take-it-or-leave-it proposal.

"The thing I find most puzzling about this is the lack of communication with me personally," BTWCSC Executive Director Pat Scott said of Farrell, noting how helpful Alioto-Pier and Farrell's staff had been before opponents convinced him to drop his support for the project. "I was a little taken aback, quite frankly. I would just assume that he'd talk to me."

But Farrell said he was simply trying to heed neighborhood concerns and craft a compromise that would get neighbors to drop their lawsuit threats and appeal of the Planning Commission's 6-1 vote to approve the project. "I can't control what happened in the past, I'm only here to make sure everyone is happy now," Farrell told us. "I absolutely support the project, I think the community center is great ... We're arguing over a story."

Yet Scott noted that project proponents already had compromised on a project that was initially proposed for eight stories, and she said that even at five stories, it isn't coming anywhere near what the city actually needs. So while Farrell casts it as a fight over one story, Scott said, "10 units is a big thing in a city that has nothing for these kids."

That need was outlined in a 2007 report by the Mayor's Transitional Youth Task Force. The group of city officials and nonprofit providers, convened by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, studied issues affecting at-risk youth between the ages 16 and 24 and one of the major needs identified was housing.

A follow-up study found that 4,500 to 6,800 young people are "homeless or marginally housed each year." The citywide affordable housing stock for this population sat at meager 314 units at the time.

"We are not doing a good enough job as a city and as a state [to help at-risk youth]," Davis said. "Once they leave the foster care system, there is very little support for them."


Apparently, for these upper-income jackasses, it's all about THEIR kids and the poor kids can f*ck*ff. Maybe they'd prefer a 5 story Barnie's instead so they don't have to drive their kids all the way to Union Square. These people are just so sickening. They complain about poor people on the streets, then complain when housing/shelter is proposed, then they pass useless sit-lie laws to tell them to go *somewhere* else when there isn't anyplace to go. No. They're concerns are NOT valid. Loitering?? Seriously?? On that stretch of Lombard? There probably wouldn't be anymore that 10-15 kids living there AND it will have on-site services to help them become self-sufficient!! What do you people want!?!? Maybe they would prefer a soylent green solution and just collect and grind up all the poor for snacks. What is wrong with these people???

Posted by Guest on Jun. 01, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

Maybe getting these at-risk kids out of the slums and low income neighborhoods and let them be around more affluent surroundings will encourage them to get an education and work hard in order to one day have their own material success. Either that, or they'll start selling dope to little Skylar and Colten.

Posted by chelsea on Jun. 02, 2011 @ 8:55 am

Well, I live near this neighborhood, and I am torn. I also do not like to be near such projects due to potential negative impact. However, it is also unfair that these facilities are ALWAYS placed in the same areas, and should really be spread throughout the City so everyone shares in the burden. In NYC, similar facilities are to be found in EVERY neighborhood EXCEPT the ritzy Upper East Side, which is unfair and and highly hypocritical of the bleeding-heart millionaires (Bloomie anyone?). Nothing worse than a wealthy liberal, they champion affordable housing, charity, and helping the downtrodden, and they vote for politicians and taxes that support a multitude of social long as none of these facilities are in their neighborhood. So really, these moneyed Marina dwellers can suck it. Now you know what people in other areas of the City complain about.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

I live on the block (Sutter) half a block from the Center. I am in favor of affordable housing for youth. I even worked for the Larkin Street project for a short time as a temp. I had a lot of misgivings about the build up of the center because I have to drive for my job and need parking in my area. It's possible that there won't be many extra cars owned by poor youth so maybe it's a moot point.

I do have a problem with the portrayal of the area as being upscale and affluent. There are a few condos in the immediate vicinity but mostly rental housing for middle class working people. If you go north for several blocks there's Pacific Heights; a real, bona fide affluent area. An area that they won't propose this kind of housing and I wish they would. They need diversity more in that area.

If you go two blocks east of the center you will find housing projects already there. Don't take my word for it; go there and look for yourselves. So it isn't the affluent area painted in the article. There are some important facts contained in the article but I think it loses some credibility when it tries to create a rich vs poor struggle story.

Get the facts, get all the facts, then make your opinion.

Thank you for reading my rant.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 14, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

These are the neighbors (mostly a multi cultural family neighborhood of artists and working people) that said yes to the project . So..The developers switched the in code- 40 fit project first submitted-- to a 70 ft big box structure that dwarfs the mostly historic victorian 1 and 2 story home community surrounding it.-BTW needed a special spot zoning in order to make the 500% density building expansion legal passed quick.. so this is why the neighbors are attacked in the press. BTW never sat down with the neighbors to include them in any of the new community centers building plans unlike other well managed Westside Court in Western Addition affordable housing project in the same neighborhood ... BTW was funded by the City for the project even before a make shift Environmental Impact Report was ever done with just wrong misinformation about the residential home buildings surrounding it. The 5th story reduction in question is not slated for foster youth transitioning.. They are market apartment units owned by the developer and could be reduced and not effect the youth apartments or finances says the MOH. There is no parking planned for the units and the whole building is out of code for the height and density. It is illegal according to current building code laws and density for the neighborhood. It takes a 3-4 city blocks of light away from neighbors with a giant 65-70 fit huge walls buttress to many 1 and 2 story homes so that light will not fall on houses or backyards. Officials stood by while Drew School or Treasure Island new buildings plans opted out on affordable housing.. so now the neighbors that said yes are just not that important. The 1 billion dollar investment push on public housing will loose money if they care about SF neighborhoods,too.

Posted by Kathy on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 9:03 am

It's not about the who. It's about the density and the parking. There are a number of large apartment buildings on that block as well as numerous multi unit building and few garages and even less parking spaces.

Any new development of whatever kind would have a negative impact on the neighborhood.

And please don't call this an upscale neighborhood. It's as far from that as possible.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 9:20 am