Civil Grand Jury: Parkmerced tenant protections 'just talk'

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The Board of Supervisor's Government Audit & Oversight Committee heard from members of the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury this morning about a report it issued on the Parkmerced redevelopment.

"When you read this report, nowhere in this report does it say, 'do not develop,'" said Michael Golrick, a juror with the civil grand jury. Yet he noted that the primary concern highlighted in the document was a perceived lack of tenant protections for residents living in rent-controlled units.

The assurances in the development agreement -- that tenants will be moved into new units after their  existing units are demolished, with the same rent-control protections they had before -- can't be guaranteed due to unresolved legal questions, he said. "It is aspirational and inconclusive. Tenants will live under a cloud of uncertainty, possibly for years." He added, "Until a court decides, it's all just talk."

Jennifer Matz of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development and John Rahaim, director of the San Francisco Planning Commission, both noted that the Civil Grand Jury report was hitting on a legal issue, so the city's formal responses will be prepared in concert with City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office.

Matz also noted that the draft of the Development Agreement which the Civil Grand Jury had based its assessment on had changed since the Civil Grand Jury report was issued, with new provisions to shore up tenant protections. She also charged that the report "fails to understand certain aspects of the Development Agreement."

Meanwhile, residents organized under the Parkmerced Action Coalition are still hoping they may have a chance to reverse the Board's decision to approve the Parkmerced overhaul by placing a referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot to ask voters whether the zoning for the project should be approved. The group of tenants, organized under the "Committee to Stop Mass Demolition of Housing," submitted 18,487 signatures on July 8. The Department of Elections is still verifying them and so far, the referendum has not yet qualified for the ballot.