Not in our neighborhood - Page 2

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

The report called for 400 new affordable housing units for this population to be completed or under construction by 2012. Edward II and BTWCSC are located in the Marina and the Western Addition, respectively, in proximity to affluent neighborhoods in a district with a dearth of affordable housing.

"With supportive housing [going] into neighborhoods that never had affordable housing, there is a certain unknown and it makes people uncomfortable," said Gail Gilman, Executive Director of Community Housing Partnership, which owns and manages the Edward II project.

Patricia Vaughey, a resident of the Marina-Cow Hollow area since 1976, is perhaps the most vocal critic of the project. She has used the neighborhood associations and every other city forum she can find as platforms to lambaste the plans. "It just kills my soul to see this project," she told us, voicing a variety of concerns about how the project would be managed. "I am so worried about the kids ... We are asking for the best program in the country and we are not getting it."

Yet Gilman said that considerable energy and many resources have been invested in designing Edward II and that she trusts Larkin Street Youth Service, a respected nonprofit agency, to do the programming. "We chose to partner with Larkin Street because they are the experts in this area," she said.

Vaughey characterized the stretch of Lombard Street between Divisadero and Van Ness streets, where Edward II will be located, as marred by crime and prostitution and unsuitable for this project. "We have a little Tenderloin down here," she said.

Gilman disputed that characterization and said the building was chosen after an extensive search and that it met the criteria of having the right sized building in a safe neighborhood with good access to public transit and open space.

But many residents have expressed concern over the pending change to zoning for the building. And if the BTWCSC project couldn't win Farrell's support, the Edward II project faces an even more uphill battle because Farrell told us, "There's an even stronger level of neighborhood concern over that project.... It's going to be a tough hill to climb."

The contentious issue under review by the Planning Department is an application to expand the density limit from 16 units to 24.

John Miller, president of the Marina Community Association, said that "from a neighborhood dynamic perspective," a change to density is problematic. He said changing the density for one building is a slippery slope that could hurt the entire neighborhood. "Higher density is inconsistent with the neighborhood. It could work beautifully at lower density."

Miller said potential renters in the vicinity would be concerned with "loitering that could occur when people are coming and going ... With so many people there is no sense of community"

Yet as with BTWCSC, proponents say simply slashing the project to a smaller size would kill it because then it wouldn't pencil out financially. Making an issue of density is therefore obstruction of the project because compromise cannot be reached on the issue.

Farrell, a venture capitalist, said he ran the numbers on BTWCSC and believes it would still be a viable project at four stories if the Mayor's Office of Housing is able to offer some unspecified assistance, as he said the officials there have pledged to him they would. "I know we need more affordable housing," Farrell said, rejecting suggestions that D2 residents tend to oppose all affordable housing projects. "I don't think that should be a part of this conversation."

Farrell criticized the outreach done by Edward II proponents, telling us, "I don't think it was done in a tactful way." But Miller said a recent meeting with Gilman and others was positive. "It was an effort on their part to respond to the neighborhood concerns as best they can," Miller said.