Maximum architect Leo Chow and developer Seth Mallen faced a hostile crowd at a School Board meeting.
Maximus architect Leo Chow and developer Seth Mallen look sad as they face a hostile crowd of public school parents

By Julia Carrie Wong

June 15, 2014 — Almost 100 people attended the meeting of the San Francisco Board of Educations’ Buildings, Grounds, and Services Committee Monday night to hear a presentation from Maximus Real Estate Partners on the impact its proposed development at 16th and Mission Streets will have on the adjacent Marshall Elementary School. Conspicuous among the crowd of parents, students, and community activists was the business-casual crew from Maximus. They came armed with a leaflet entitled “The Facts About 16th & Mission” and wearing stickers that read, “1979 Mission Comprometidos con Marshall Elementary” (“1979 Mission is committed to Marshall Elementary”).

48hillsjuliawongBut if Maximus’s stickers were intended as a token of good will toward the families of students at Marshall (97% of whom are Latino), the gesture fell flat.

None of the developer’s written materials came with translation. The presentation was entirely in English. Instead, Spanish speaking parents huddled around organizers from the Plaza 16 Coalition for translation — and expressed all the more anger at Maximus during public comment.

One of the “Fabrications” Maximus intended to debunk in its leaflet was that “The neighborhood is against this project,” but Monday’s meeting provided little evidence of support.

Seth Mallen, the Executive Vice President of Maximus, and Leo Chow, the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill architect for the project, joined David Goldin, the chief facilities officer of San Francisco Unified School District, and Brent Stephens, assistant superintendent, to explain to the School Board commissioners their proposal to mitigate the impacts of the development on the school’s students and facilities.

Maximus intends to enlarge the BART station plaza to allow for storefronts, widen Capp Street’s sidewalk, and fully contain the demolition of existing buildings containing lead and asbestos (“not something that should be scary,” according to Mallen). Chiefly of interest to the school is a proposal to raise Marshall Elementary’s playground a full story. That would lessen the shadows caused by the new residential buildings and create 12,000 square feet of usable space below. Maximus emphasized that its proposal came out of meetings it has held with the “Marshall community,” including teachers, the school administration, and parents.

Mallen said that the cost of the new playground, which could total $3 million, would be borne by the developer. One parent of a Marshall student, Susan Cieutat, suggested that the offer is less than generous, since Maximus could deduct that amount from its mandatory community impact fees. However, Christian Lepley, the spokesperson for Maximus, told me that Maximus does not plan to deduct any of its spending on the school from any impact fees.

48hillsmaxiums1Of the dozens of respondents to Maximus’s presentation, the most succinct and adorable were three Marshall students who approached the podium to say, “I don’t need another playground because I already have one, and I like it the way it is.”

Most of the parents who spoke were concerned — not just about the shadow, but about the impact of construction and heavier traffic on their children’s learning environment (the project includes 160 parking spaces). Bianca Guttierez, a mother of two Marshall students, told the commissioners that, although Marshall had been her family’s first-choice school, she would request special dispensation to have her son moved to a new school because she feared the noise and shaking of heavy construction would exacerbate his health problems.

Throughout the evening, a deep level of anger and mistrust was aimed at Maximus. Several speakers said that Maximus is not to be trusted, and alluded to its track record using an investment strategy called “predatory equity.” Opponents of the project raised concerns that the market-rate residential units will lead to further gentrification of the neighborhood and expressed frustration at the developer’s plans to include only 42 affordable units, out of 345 total.

Several parents expressed frustration at those who are outright opposed to Maximus’s project. The current president of the Marshall PTA said, “I think it’s safe to say that all the parents at Marshall wish it weren’t happening, but there’s a group of us that are pragmatic and realistic.” Since the project will be approved, she argued, the best move for parents was to make sure they get the best deal possible from Maximus.

But Maria Zamudio, an organizer from Causa Justa Just Cause, says that this belief in the project’s inevitability is a result of misunderstanding about the process of approvals, fostered by a school administration eager to make a deal. According to Zamudio, many parents thought that Maximus and Marshall were engaging in formal negotiations, that the project had already achieved approval, and that the offer to raise the playground was take-it-or-leave-it. Zamudio told me parents felt pressured by school administrators to support the plan, and that they were told not to pass out flyers for the Plaza 16 Coalition’s community meeting on the project earlier this month.

Concerns about the process were shared by Sandra Lee Fewer, President of the Board of Education. Fewer began the meeting by chastising Maximus, Goldin, and Stephens for holding any kind of talks about school property away from the Board of Education. “Principals do not own school sites and neither do parents,” she said. Instead, the proper body to determine what if any kind of deal can be reached with the school belongs to the board in its role as “the elected, temporary stewards of public land.”

The nearly three-hour meeting did not appear to soften Fewer’s stance. At the end of the night, she dismissed any idea of Maximus’s magnanimity, saying, “I feel like a generous offer would be to build us a whole new school.”

  • Sam

    You claim that this meeting refutes the developers claim that the project is popular with the people. But a hundred people, all drawn from the same demographic, is a skewed and self-selecting group that do not appear to be representative of the city’s community at all.

    Call any public meeting in this city and you can be sure that the “usual suspect” NIMBY’s and a ragbag of activists and advocates will show up to oppose almost anything. And it is well known that those who oppose developments are often much noisier and more motivated than the much larger group of people who are happy with the project, but don’t feel so strongly about it.

    I’m sure the topography of the school can be altered if it’s really important that the kids be exposed to unshaded sun in the middle of the day. Either way, that is hardly a reason to not build these much-needed homes, and to clean up what must surely be one of the most disgusting intersections in the city.

    I am yet to meet anyone who thinks that this project will not improve the immediate area. And if I were a parent of a child at Marshall, I’d want the area cleaned up a lot more than I’d want my kids to be able to go out in the noon sun.

    • Seriously?? Get bent you racist scumbag. When moneyed white people show up to the meeting, it’s representative of the city, but when latino families show up, it’s a “self-selecting group”???

      “clean up what must surely be one of the most disgusting intersections in the city.” Because the opinions of what you say matter more than the people living there? Hiding behind the interest of housing, using plainly othering language. It’s typical of someone who is interested in their own pocket books.

      Go take your redlining and your derogatory mentality and shove it. San Francisco needs inclusion and policies that work everyone not neoliberal white supremacy.

      • Michael

        Pulling the race card as your first line of defense show you have no legitimate rebuttal.

        • Ana

          Or shows he read between the lines.

        • Whatever. Refusing to talk about white supremacy and redlining as it applies to SF housing shows your general ignorance. It shouldn’t be tolerated and needs to be called out. We need housing solutions that is participatory and works for community that exists there now.

        • Sam

          Agreed, Michael. I’d go further and say that it is racist to deploy a race card so gratuitously.

          But if his anger, hatred and envy is typical of the opposition to building more housing, then more sane folks have little to fear.

          • Carmen

            I am starting to think that the developers are paying trolls to make illogical points about housing just to irritate. NIMBYism, incidentally, was a concept coined during the 50’s to talk about suburban paranoia around “City problems” (aka Non-White problems) creeping into their insular world. Describing the concerns of neighborhood parents surrounding an invasive and unaffordable development project isn’t really NIMBYism.

          • Tsen

            News-Flash!!! Peoples of color cannot be racist. We may be racial, but we most certainly cannot be racist! Understand?

      • hruski

        I didn’t read past the first sentence.

    • Sam, it sounds like you’re primed to be adversarial to local, latino concerns. I understand you have absorbed a lot of the rhetoric of many white folks in the city, and that’s understandable; however, it would be helpful to not equate local latino communities with insanity, as there is a lot financially, logistically, and emotionally at stake for people right now, apart from this individual project.

      Just so you know, racism is not “discrimination based on race” but is a systematic, institutional, and interpersonal form of discrimination against non-white peoples. Latinos, black folks, and others can hate on white people all we want, and yet there is little institutional support for that perspective. Conversely, if white people want to post “diet” hate speech on a well-written article that puts forward a perspective that is so often dismissed in development efforts, I’m afraid that you are going to find a LOT of institutional support for that perspective.

      • Sam

        Again, i’m not seeing a race issue here, except insofar as some opponents of this project appear to perceive an opportunity to leverage race into a tactical edge.

        It would be really helpful if people here could adopt a more post-racial outlook. And given that the Mission is about 50% Hispanic, I’d offer up that Hispanics are the one race that is over-represented here compared to norms.

        Can we please discuss the merits of these new homes without spurious tangential race-baiting?

        • Eleen Tigur

          No one except the people who live there who also happen to be people of color are leveraging ‘how they exist’ into a ‘tactical edge’ 🙂 — surprisingly enough that’s how that works.

          “It would be really helpful if people here could adopt a more post-racial outlook. ”

          Of course it would – for you.

          But what does that even really mean?


          Could you use that term in a sentence, in the context of say… Casa Lucas Market on 24th Street or the in housing projects of Sunnydale or Fisherman’s wharf?

          I lustily await your response.

          • Sam

            If you have to ask what the phrase “post-racial” means then you are prob;ably not post-racial. It simply means that one has evolved beyond the immature practice of endlessly classifying people by ethnicity for the purpose of trying to elevate one class over another.

            Such people typically introduce race spuriously into an unrelated topic to garner an emotive response.

      • SFrentier

        Sure, you and “homee” are right. It’s the whites that want to clean up that intersection. Latinos just love crack ho’s, drug pushers, public urination, etc. Yeah, lots of people walk through and use that area, BUT THE PROBLEM is with the types of people and activities I listed above. News flash: THE PROBLEM is not race specific!

    • verde

      building more housing cleans up the neighborhood & reduces crime how? I hope the folks that move in enjoy their view of crack being smoked and the smell of fresh urine in the morning.

    • Eleen Tigur

      “I’m sure the topography of the school can be altered if it’s really important that the kids be exposed to unshaded sun in the middle of the day. ”

      “And if I were a parent of a child at Marshall, I’d want the area cleaned up a lot more than I’d want my kids to be able to go out in the noon sun.”

      You do realize how you’ve contradicted yourself there, don’t you?

      “Either way, that is hardly a reason to not build these much-needed homes, and to clean up what must surely be one of the most disgusting intersections in the city.”

      Of course it’s a good reason to not build these “much needed homes” – and clearly you’ve not been to many intersections in the city.

      I’m gonna call you a well-intentioned but misguided PR flack. Try living in the community – not above it.

      • Sam

        If your argument relies on the perception that 16th and Mission is a garden spot, then your delusions are not restricted to an ideological fog.

    • Tsen

      And it is probably a good thing you aren’t a parent, yet. Since when does a building magically do away with crime? In most cases, Crime is directly related to poverty. All these developers are doing is getting rich and pushing those who are in need into a corner. Most of us Marshall parents are not against development, but we are against the individuals behind this project. They are dirty. We want deeply affordable housing. After all, some of our families have no place of their own.

  • You didn’t cover the ppl that weren’t opposed! There were at least 4 speakers who ranged from “yes build it” to “I don’t love it but I like the mitigation offer so ok.”

  • From Sam’s comments above:
    “But a hundred people, all drawn from the same demographic, is a skewed and self-selecting group that do not appear to be representative of the city’s community at all.”

    “I am yet to meet anyone who thinks that this project will not improve the immediate area.”

    Sam, something tells me the demographic you “meet” might itself be a rather “skewed and self selecting group.”

    I’ve been on the corner of 16th and Mission streets for multiple weekends of late, flyering and talking to countless folks about this project (a random sampling or passers by, I’ll note). I can recall only two conversations, out of dozens, where folks from the neighborhood actually favored the project (and one conversation with someone from out of town).

    A May 15th community event at the Victoria Theater about the proposed project, unambiguously titled “We Can’t Afford this in our Neighborhood,” drew some 300 folks from the neighborhood. I can assure you the room was full of people angry about this project and highly distrustful of Maximus Real Estate Partners, a company with a widely-reported notorious history.

    You disparage children, youth, parents, and residents of the neighborhood who publicly expressed their concerns about this project by collectively referring to them as “a ragbag.” It’s clear to me and to anyone who was in attendance at Monday’s Board of Education meeting that your comments are ignorant, insulting, and disrespectful.

    Sam, do you live in the vicinity of 16th and Mission? Who have you been speaking with that makes you so certain there isn’t broad opposition to the project within in the community? If you believe you have an authoritative assessment of public opinion on this project, will you debate/discuss this issue publicly? Please let us know.

    • Sam

      Andy, 300 people showing up to oppose a project tells you nothing. There could be 30,000 people who support the project but of course they would never show up at a meeting that was clearly held to rally opposition.

      You might as well try and argue that all Americans support the Giants because thousands show up at the ballpark to support them.

      Surely you can see that the people in that immediate vicinity are not likely to be representative of the entire city community because it is a highly skewed demographic around there. Moreover it is skewed towards the poor, the homeless and the unemployed, who will naturally tend to have a more progressive outlook.

      But planning is a city-wide function, and the benefits of this project (hundreds of new homes, 50 BMR units, and more fees and taxes for the city) greatly outweigh a few “usual suspect” NIMBYs.

      The voters may have bounced 8-Washington, but only in a low-turnout election with a billionaire funding the opposition. There is no way a city-wide election would bounce a vitally needed housing asset at a key transit location that will also help clean up that sad, broken intersection.

      • Oh nonsense. The amount spent by the developers of 8 Washington during the election exceeded what was spent by those opposed, so your characterization of the “billionaire funding the opposition” is complete rubbish.

        It was a city-wide election and somewhat validated by the waterfront height limits that just passed as well in the subsequent election.

        Turning a ‘sad, broken intersection’ into more housing for highly-paid workers in this economic bubble, further erasing the Latino roots of this community is a form of neighborhood genocide.

        If you think this is going to be a slam dunk, you are delusional.

        • Sam

          I’m sorry that you oppose building much-needed new homes in your back yard. And that you think successful people don’t deserve housing too. And that you are trying to make this a race issue.

          But when Avalos stood for mayor on an anti-growth, anti-development, anti-jobs, anti-business platform, he lost massively to Ed Lee in what was a real election and not a sideshow.

          I fear you are the one who is deluded

          • Sam, I will say it again. Do you live in the vicinity of 16th and Mission? Who have you been speaking with that makes you so certain there isn’t broad opposition to the project within in the community? If you believe you have an authoritative assessment of public opinion on this project, will you debate/discuss this issue publicly? Please let us know.

    • What question are you asking Sam to debate – “What is public opinion on the project?” or some other question?

      Because if you want to set up an old fashioned public debate on some question like:
      “What is the effective response to displacement?” or some other question, I would TOTALLY do it! I would need time to prepare. Email me off list.

      • Sam

        Sonja, yes, i am not sure why Andy thinks. it is relevant where i live. I do live in the Mission but a few blocks west of there. I am familiar with that area and, like most people, i want to see improvement, progress and greater safety.

        I suspect that, as often happens in SF, those who live right next to it, or who are just structural NIMBY’s, will oppose it and the vast majority of the city supports it.

      • Andy

        Sam insults the youth, parents, and folks from the neighborhood. He calls them a “ragbag” and he insists that they do not represent their community.

        He says he has “met no one” who is against the project. If he is indeed an authority on what the community wants at 16th and Mission he should be able to discuss/debate the matter publicly and not merely troll news articles. Otherwise his claims to authority are utterly hollow.

        • Sam

          Andy, it isn’t just about the people who live on that block. The Mission is not a jurisdiction, and planning is a city-wide process. This project will benefit the entire city and if a few people in the immediate vicinity need to be a little flexible about this project, I dare say that would not be the worst thing.

          • Andy

            Sam, you can’t make up your mind and get your story straight. First you said there simply isn’t any significant opposition to the project. Then you say there may be significant opposition to the project in the vicinity of the project, but this doesn’t matter because planning is merely a city-wide process and it doesn’t matter what neighbors in the vicinity think.

            Of course everyone knows that planning isn’t merely a “city-wide process.” But even if it were, the last two city-wide referendums we saw in SF on big market rate developments–8 Washington and Prop B–showed overwhelming opposition to such developments.

            But somehow, you insist, both these votes in consecutive elections don’t reflect what San Franciscans really think because they were low turnout elections. (Funny, because low turnout elections always skew conservative. But whatever you say, Sam).

            So again, Sam, if you have some authoritative assessment of what the people of the Mission District and San Francisco want at 16th and Mission, let’s debate/discuss this publicly so that the public can benefit from this vital information you apparently possess.

            Either put your money where your mouth is or stop pretending you know what you’re talking about and stop making rude and disparaging remarks about children, youth and parents who are advocating for each other and for their community–good people whom, I’ll wager, you actually know nothing about.

          • Sam

            Andy, first you claim that this should be a local matter but then you claim that Prop B somehow applies here.

            If folks in the Mission get to decide if 8-Wash gets built or not, then why shouldn’t the entire city get to decide whether a project gets built in the Mission?

            You cannot have it both ways. And the decision to build these much-needed new homes should not be paid by a narrow, skewed, one-dimensional demographic.

            My sense from the gleeful way you talk about Prop B that in fact you oppose all new development and not just this one.

            Which of course makes you a NIMBY.

          • Andy

            “Andy, first you claim that this should be a local matter but then you claim that Prop B somehow applies here.”

            Uh, I did no such thing. Ever.

            “You cannot have it both ways. And the decision to build these much-needed new homes should not be paid by a narrow, skewed, one-dimensional demographic.”

            The only one trying to have things “both ways” is you, Sam. There’s broad and growing opposition to the project in the vicinity, in the larger neighborhood, and across the city. Next.

            “My sense from the gleeful way you talk about Prop B that in fact you oppose all new development and not just this one.”

            Uh, what on earth are you talking about?

            I have repeatedly asked you to debate/discuss this in public, Sam. Your repeated evasion of the simple request and your painfully obvious fear of publicly standing behind your claims tells us everything we need to know. I am done dignifying your cowardly trolling with responses.

            Let us know when you’re ready to come out from behind your cowardly anonymity on the internet.

            Have a good day.

          • Sam

            Andy, we are debating this publicly. This is a public forum, and we’re debating.

            But are you claiming that you oppose only this specific project and for purely local reasons? And that you are not ideologically opposed to other market-rate housing projects in the city?

            Some of the comments you made, particularly about Prop B and criticisms of “wealth”, indicate to me that your opposition to such projects is systemic and not specific.

            Which is fine as long as you admit it, and do not pretend that all you really care about is some schoolkids allegedly missing out on a little sunshine.

            Since you value things being public and out in the open, why not come clean about whether you are a generic anti-development activist or not?

  • Also, Sam – if you’re into building, if you think SF should take advantage of capital’s interest in turning ca$h into housing, sign up for the mailing list on

    I think you’re totally right that opponents come out to testify than proponents (in this and everywhere). You can help fix this by being a proponent that comes out to testify!

    • Anabelle Bolanos

      Why don’t you ask the developers and City governments of cities in the Peninsula to build more housing there? Why do we in SF have to pay the housing consequences because the cities where all these tech campuses are, refuse to build more? They want to keep their cities quaint, clean, and low traffic for the well-off homeowners in the Peninsula, but displace all the low income families in the City, how is that fair/moral/environmentally responsible/economically sustainable I ask you? Or is SFBARF paid/backed/bribed by the developers too, like the Clean Up The Plaza campaign?

      • Sam

        Anabelle, you have that 100% wrong. Every day about 100,000 SF residents commute out to jobs elsewhere in the Bay Area. And 500,000 Bay Areans commute into SF for their work.

        So the truth is that SF has far too few homes for the workers it needs. And the suburbs subsidize us by making up that huge difference.

        The reality is that SF has too few homes and the rest of the Bay Area has more than it needs.

        SFBARF has this exactly right. We cannot rely on the good nature of our neighbors to bail out our failed housing policy.

        • Eleen Tigur

          “Every day about 100,000 SF residents commute out to jobs elsewhere in the Bay Area. And 500,000 Bay Areans commute into SF for their work.”

          Can you provide a source for those numbers, I think you’re way low.

          Also, protip – no one says ‘ Bay Areans’

          • Sam

            “Eleen” I recommend that you stand on Embracadero BART station at 8am on a weekday morning and notice whether the trains going west are carrying more people than those going east.

            Or watch on of the bridges at a similar time.

            The figures are from SF Streetsblog – that well-known right-wing website.

      • I’ll be advocating for development in any city I live in. I live in West Oakland because I can’t afford to live in the mission, so Oakland and SF are where I advocate. Advocating for housing in the peninsula is a great idea, if I lived there, I’d be active there.

        I also do like cities, I like that they are destinations for all kinds of people. I am very disappointed by the xenophobic and segregationist attitude I find here in the Bay. SF is a city, not just any city, a city in the United States, not just any city in the United States, but a city in the West!
        Maybe because you already live here, you don’t know about the reputations held by the US and the west.

        The better parts of the US national mythos include rhetoric about the US being a place people can come to prosper and reinvent themselves. People already in the US, in the midwest and the east, look to the West Coast as places where they can reinvent themselves and find opportunity.

        Now, people are coming here, and instead of finding the residents pragmatically struggling to make room, we find people resisting their mandate as a city, viewing SF as junior Carmel, and screeching ‘stay out!’ to new residents.

        Of course ironically no one here is From here. Like 99% of Americans, people in the SF are nearly all migrants or decedents of migrants. Somehow they still indignantly disapprove of the idea of accepting new arrivals. My grandparents came to Philadelphia from Poland in 1945. They met some people that were hostile, and some that helped them. I am thankful they could come here. How could I justify having a hostile attitude toward migrants?

        • Sam

          Good points, Sonja. I think one of the problems in SF is that there is a strong NIMBY element (often white and affluent) who wish to suppress the new supply of housing to boost the value of their own RE investments. And it is significant in that regard that Redmond, Hestor and Welch all have nicely appreciating properties in the very same city where they advocate against growth.

          The impending plan for West Oakland represents a great opportunity to provide dense capacity just a few minutes from SF. But there the opposition is different, and that is also being framed as a race issue, as white emigrees from SF challenge a traditional black community with a long and proud history.

          I support your efforts.

        • Do you think that aren’t Ohlone people living and working in SF? I just went a meeting the other day on Valencia street. Do you think that the people living in the community — poor folks and people of color shouldn’t have a voice just because you waltz in and say “no one is from here?”

          You aren’t helping west oakland with your mandates of more housing. West Oakland lost half of it’s african american families during the predatory wipeout that was the great recession. If you were actually interested in helping you’d be fighting for investment and opportunities for in PEOPLE IN THOSE COMMUNITIES.

          You aren’t being excluded or being segregated. It’s something you are doing to yourself.

          • Sure, there are Ohlone people in SF, that’s why I said 99%, but are you trying to tell me all the people at your meeting in Valencia are Ohlone? That’s absurd, half? a third? 10% Ohlone? Surely not – The people who live in the mission are like 99% americans everywhere, like I said, immigrants themselves or descendents of immigrants. Which is great, but, again, being a decedent of immigrants, I can’t relate to the “no build – no new residents” attitude. People are coming. How can you justify not making room for them?

        • Your justifications and reasoning are still filled with white supremacy and it makes me want to puke. Your argument to build for new people coming — great. BUT NOT AT THE COST OF PEOPLE LIVING THERE ALREADY. I hope someone flushes your SF BARF down the toilet.

          • Yeah but what is the cost? Your neighborhood changes? Well things change.
            There is no reason current residents have to move out when new people move in, provided new housing is built. That’s my point over and over. I’m not a segregationist.
            If residents find that prices are increasing too rapidly to stay, then that means not enough new housing is being built fast enough.

    • Jonathan

      seriously? Barf? must be a joke.

  • Jonathan

    Whoever this Sam is, he is definitely out of touch with and working against the Mission District community, its people and dozens of neighborhood non profits. Its too bad Mission Housing wasn’t fighting for the community the way it used to in the 1970s, 1980’s and 1990’s. We need a community based non profit developer in the Mission District, to stop the gentrification and get more deeply affordable, low income housing built, not highrise luxury housing with a few BMR crumbs that local residents can’t afford.

    • Sam

      Jonathan, there is no billion dollar slush fund for us to build tens of thousands of subsidized homes so that people who aspire to live in Sf but cannot afford it can somehow magically live in an affluent, desirable place.

      Somewhere in all of this, some sense of reality needs to penetrate the entitlement mob, the subsidy mob and the “I want a pony” mob.

      This project will improve that block, will provide homes for hundreds, will create 50 subsidized homes and will boosts revenues to the city. To oppose it is to oppose any kind of progress in this city.

      I’ve lived in the Mission for 20 years, love it dearly and am thrilled by the progress it has made in the last twenty years from crime-infested slum to one of the most feted neighborhoods on the nation. Are you part of that? Or wish to wallow in your faded nostalgia for irredeemable squalor and failure?

      • Jonathan

        Sam, I was displaced during the dot com boom, I could not find another affordable place to live, despite having a full time civil service job with full benefits, working for the State of California, Eventually, I became so discouraged, I resigned my job, I spent over two years on the street, homeless. I still remember how sad, depressing, discouraging it was to see rents skyrocket to insane levels, making it impossible for people like me to have a home. Try wondering these streets at night, with no place to go, for months on end, Sam! Finally, thanks to some of these same people you criticize for being obstructionist to billionaire development, I got back on my feet. I was fortunate to be able to buy into a Land Trust coop, something which would never have been possible without everyone organizing, fighting, protesting, filing law suits to save my apartment building from demolition and buy it. Yes, I will fight for housing justice and stand up for the people you want to bulldoze away and out of sight. We don’t have billions, but we can organize and fight and fight and fight and fight until we win. The Mission Coalition did it forty years ago, giving birth to the City’s first community based non profit developer, Mission Housing Development Corporation – that can happen again, we can stop billlionaire development and put the development back into the hands of the community, to meet community needs, not billionaire greed.

        • Hell yeah!! We can do it! Let’s fight!

        • Sam

          Jonathan, at any time during this tale of woe did it ever occur to you that maybe you are trying to live in a town that you quite simply cannot afford and shouldn’t be in?

          And that a location better suited to your financial situation might be more appropriate and sustainable?

          If you can only live in SF because of subsidies, handouts and the kindness of strangers, then how can you feel any sense of control, achievement and personal responsibility?

          Not everyone can afford to live in an expensive town.just because they think they deserve to.

          • Jesus Sam what is wrong with you. That is just mean internet trolling.
            Plus it’s off point. Everybody here agrees high prices are a problem, what’s at issue is how to deal with it.

          • Sam


            I was merely inviting people to reflect on whether we can ever reasonably expect to house everyone who thinks they want to live in SF. And especially when for many of them, like Jonathan, that clearly can never happen without somebody else’s money subsidizing them.

            I totally agree with your argument that we need to build a lot more homes in SF, and lessen our dependency on the suburbs to house our workers. But that will never reduce home prices to the point where all the Jonathan’s of this world can credibility expect to afford a home here.

            So the other part of the solution, along with building more homes, is for some people to explore alternative housing options outside of the city. And indeed we are seeing a healthy exodus of some people to places like Oakland, where housing is much more affordable to those on more modest incomes.

            Envy and entitlement should have no place in the debate on housing in SF.

          • Jonathan

            Sam, you sound like the racists who basically told the native americans that they couldn’t live in their land any longer! Listen to yourself. Have some compassion for your fellow human beings. Housing is a human right, recognized by the UN Charter of Human Rights and the United Nations. San Francisco is my home, it is where I work. I am NOT LEAVING TO PLEASE YOU AND YOUR BILLIONAIRE FRIENDS!!!

          • Sam


            Housing and shelter may well be important human rights.

            But me living in Geneva or Monaco or Aruba or some other place I would like to live in but cannot afford to live in is most assuredly NOT a basic human right.

            I’m not telling you to leave or where you can live. I’m telling you that you cannot expect somebody else to subsidize your aspirations.

          • Jonathan

            Sam, my housing is NOT subsidized, the residents are paying the full mortgage, no one else is paying the mortgage. Funny thing, though, when you take the real estate speculator out of the picture, it is far cheaper to own than to rent. It is the renters who are subsidizing the rich.

          • Sam

            Jonathan, you have been subsidized. First you had a rent-controlled building, which means that your landlord subsidized you. Then you lived in a MHDC property whose legal structure is specifically organized to remove any liability for tax.

            The idea that everyone who offers housing to others is a “speculator” is as flawed as it is offensive.

          • Eleen Tigur

            “If you can only live in SF because of subsidies, handouts and the kindness of strangers, then how can you feel any sense of control, achievement and personal responsibility?”

            Not everyone needs to feel a sense of control or achievement or even personal responsibility.

            That may be a hard pill for you to swallow but it is a fundamental truth that you’re not going to change just by saying it’s a bad thing.

            “Not everyone can afford to live in an expensive town just because they think they deserve to.”

            Everybody can think about living wherever they damn well please. Afford it or not. Deserve it or not. There are no rules on that.

            Living somewhere where prices suddenly fluctuate due to macro-economic circumstances is the absolute fundamentals lure of the golden state and San Francisco.

            You are heading down a very dangerous and violent philosophical path if you believe that people shouldn’t do things because they can’t afford them — even more so if you think that you or economic circumstances get to dictate who deserves what.

            That is deeply anti-American and a rudimentary survey of history will tell you how it ends.

          • Sam

            LOL, so it is un-American to be independant and oppose subsidies and welfare? Really?

            And the history of America can be viewed as a triumph of socialism, where everyone can live beyond their means by sucking on the teat of others?

            I have no issue with anyone having aspirations to live in a nice place. But by definition only a small minority can do that via subsidies from others. The majority will always have to study and work hard to live that dream and it is not unreasonable to contend that many will fail.

            Jonathan got lucky but that is not a blueprint for most people.

      • Eleen Tigur

        This is not about those that aspire to live here. It’s about the people that do live here and have for decades like yourself.

        “This project will improve that block, will provide homes for hundreds, will create 50 subsidized homes and will boosts revenues to the city. To oppose it is to oppose any kind of progress in this city.”

        That is utter nonsense. People oppose development all the time all over the city and have for years for a variety of reasons. Potrero Hill is a prime example. Look at the opposition to 1601 Mariposa. That has nothing to do with diversity or displacement and a lot to do with land and home values.

        I hear this argument a lot from the randian types in San Francisco and I hope you’re not guilty of it.

        “Nobody has to the right to live somewhere they can’t afford.”

        Of course they do.

        Not only the right but the will to live where they please and to continue doing so as is clearly demonstrated by community organising and demonstration and using every law on the book. Rich or poor, young or old.

        This is America – it is what we do best. Live willfully!

        Do you really expect anyone to think “Oh no others are paying more rent, I don’t have to, but I should probably pack up and leave because an economic argument has been made against me.”?

        “But you can only afford to live here because of rent control, welfare, snap, medicare, medicaid etc etc”


        Economic subsidies are entirely subjective.

        If you’re on the right side (low tax, tarp, bailouts, fed rate) its an incentive, but if you’re on the wrong side (snap, welfare, Medicare) its a subsidy, a handout. The reverse is also true.

        Life is hard and you don’t always get what you want.

        • Sam

          “You don’t always get what you want”

          True. And when many want something that only a few can afford, then they have to adjust their aspirations accordingly.

          Many aspire to buy a new home in the Mission. If we don’t build for them, the evictions will continue.

          Your choice. I’ll do fine either way.

  • Michael

    This is so stupid.

    “At the end of the night, she dismissed any idea of Maximus’s magnanimity, saying, “I feel like a generous offer would be to build us a whole new school.”

    GO AWAY! Get out of the damn way! Why do we as a city let this happen? Why are crazy people with unbelievably unrealistic expectations of entitlement allowed to hold up our city?

    I have an idea, how about you and your stupid protestor friends hold a meeting about how phenomenally shitty an environment the 16th and mission intersection is for kids? No, you’d way rather just have a development company give you free shit because our city allows asinine people like these protestors so much leverage.

    YOU are the problem, not Maximus.

    • Eleen Tigur

      Who is the “YOU” you’re referring to “Michael”? Are you afraid to name a name for fear of legal reprisal?

      “GO AWAY! Get out of the damn way! Why do we as a city let this happen? Why are crazy people with unbelievably unrealistic expectations of entitlement allowed to hold up our city?”

      Can you share more details on the “unbelievably unrealistic expectations of entitlement”?

      “Why do we as a city let this happen?”

      As I asked your friend “Sam” – Are you new in town? Of course we’re going to let people have opinions and protest against things that they don’t want. This is San Francisco. This is America. Don’t like it? I hear Dubai is “lovely”.

      But seriously – Is living where you’ve lived for 10, 20, 30, 40 years and the grand notion of continuing to living there really “entitlement”?

      Is it “unbelievably unrealistic” to fight for the right to live where you do?

      Where do you live?

  • Akeem

    I actually attended this meeting. True, the vast majority of those who testified were against the project. However, there were also several people who actually supported the project, including myself. The most compelling testimonies for me were the school teacher and head of the school PTA who mentioned the developer’s offer to spend millions to build new facilities for the school by raising the playground. There is even an IndieGogo campaign to raise money for the school’s playground program (

    From their perspective, this wasn’t a political issue, and it was more pragmatic for the school to get all the help that it could get to improve their facilities. There was another camp of people who weren’t theoretically opposed to the development, but wanted to bargain with the school for a better offer. I spoke personally to one of the school teachers and he agreed that it would bring much needed improvements to the school, but they were hoping to get more money. In my own testimony to the school board, I mentioned that I regularly walked home two blocks away from the BART station and often saw crime / trespassing in the parking lot next door to the school and on the school property itself. I felt that a lot of the developer’s planned proposals would make the area much safer and provide a net benefit to the school and surrounding neighborhood.

    From what I could tell, there were various political organizations who were able to rally a large amount of people to protest the development on the grounds of gentrification and eviction. In reality, this building replaces a Walgreens and a Burger King. One person even went so far as testifying that “He didn’t want those techie people in his neighborhood.” I feel those arguments have no place at a school board meeting and one of the commissioners said something to that effect before opening up testimony.

    • Sam

      Akeen, that parking lot next to the school is the car park for Walgreens. But in reality it is a breeding ground for crime, particularly drugs and prostitution.

      I find it odd that some at the meeting are concerned about their kids getting regular doses of cancer-causing mid-day sun but don’t appear to care about the rampant criminal activity literally just a stone’s throw away.

      • Your stupid drug war, nor your intolerant attitude towards sex workers is welcome my *my* Mission, Sam. Go take your othering attitude elsewhere.

        • matt

          You mean “Sam take your logic and good sense and get out of “my” drug addled and run down mission”

          Noting stays the same forever homee, better to contribute towards the change than to stand in its way and get run over by progress.

          • Andy

            No one is talking about blocking construction of housing. Regardless, there are thousands of market rate units being built and in the pipeline. Fact.

            The Mission District needs deeply affordably housing, not a massive market-rate tower, especially at 16th and Mission. Many of the working people who live there know this and they don’t want to be pushed out. The developers are there to make a profit, impact on the neighborhood and it’s good people be damned.

            Thankfully the community is standing up for itself, standing against reckless development, and staring for construction of housing that serves the working people, low income, and homeless folks in our city. And the opposition will grower stronger and stronger as more people become aware of what is being proposed.

          • Sam

            Again, Andy, nobody gets pushed out if a new housing project gets built. Why do you insist in propagating such evident lies?

    • Andy

      350 units of market rate housing in the neighborhood will rapidly accelerate gentrification and trigger displacement of low income and working families in the Marshall community. Retail rents will sky rocket and mom and pop businesses will be pushed out en mass. This is a matter of great importance to many of the families whose children attend the school. What good is a new playground to these families if they are no longer able to live in the city?

      Building 350 units of market rate housing will not lower the cost of housing in the neighborhood. It will do exactly the opposite. This is patently obvious. Simplistic notions of supply and demand obviously do not apply to the Mission District and to San Francisco, where demand is, for all intents and purposes, unlimited.

      This is indeed a political issue, for *everyone* involved. If you truly think otherwise you are terribly naive. Nothing is more political in San Francisco than land use, housing, and gentrification. And nothing is more vital to the survival of the Mission District’s socioeconomic and ethnic diversity then building housing that is *deeply affordable.* And nothing will be more harmful the to survival of that diversity than building huge towers of market rate housing that only the wealthy can afford.

      • Sam

        Except that this proposed project will displace nobody, because these are new homes on a site where nobody currently lives.

        Nor will it drive up RE prices because it is adding to supply, and will therefore deflect RE inflation.

        And of course there will be 50 affordable units which otherwise will not happen. Do you really hate successful people so much that you would shaft 50 poor people just to keep successful people from having a home?

        There is no massive pool of money to give a subsidized home in the Mission or in this city to people who cannot afford to be here. I cannot afford to live in La Jolla so I live elsewhere. Why should public policy favor people who cannot afford to live here? Why wouldn’t they be better off in Oakland? And why do you always want someone else to subsidize your apparent fetish about “diversity”?

        In fact, the Mission has become more diverse over the last 20 years because, two decades ago, there weren’t many white and asian people in the mission and now there are. Or do you want only a special kind of “diversity”?

      • Akeem


        Let’s say for the sake of argument that you’re absolutely right, and demand is “unlimited”. Where do you think that the people who want to live in San Francisco will choose to live instead? Do you think that preventing new development makes rent cheaper?

        Consider this scenario: Instead of using an abstract concept like “unlimited”, let’s say there are 10 people willing to pay $3k/month for an apartment in the Mission district. However, there are currently only 5 apartments for $1k/month. Knowing that he has to compete with at least 5 other people for a spot, Tentant A offers $2000 instead. Landlord B, accepts Tenant A’s offer because he stands to make more money. This continues until the last person takes the last apartment. Upon realizing that there’s an opportunity to get more rent than he currently receives for his apartment, Landlord C evicts Tenant D and finds a person who is willing to pay $3k for rent. There is now an extra apartment available, and five people who are still looking for an apartment in the Mission. Except this time, both landlord and tenants have learned their lesson and the bidding war continues.

        My point with that example, is that if new housing isn’t being built, then this “unlimited” demand turns to the housing that already exists. People don’t get evicted because a nicer apartment moves in next door. People get evicted because their landlord thinks they can get more money from someone else. If you can rely on anything in life, it is the power of self interest. Moral judgments aside, new construction will not change whether or not a person’s landlord choose to evict them. At the very least, it provides the opportunity for people to live in an area that didn’t live there before.

        • Andy

          Akeem, we don’t need to ponder your theoretical scenarios. We can look at actual data. Have a look at this graph. It shows you what actually happens when we build market rate housing in SF. Hint, the prices don’t go down.

          I also encourage you to read this:

          Again, if this proposed project is built, it will further increase the cost of housing and commercial rents in the neighborhood and drive the displacement of working people, low income families, and mom and pop businesses. There is an undeniable fact.

          • Akeem


            I get what you’re trying to say, and you’re probably right. New construction probably won’t decrease the cost of rent. However, that doesn’t actually address the point I was trying to make.

            A person who is willing to spend $3-$5k per month to live in a particular area is going to move SOMEWHERE. If new construction isn’t available, then the next option is among the apartments that already exist. An apartment that already exists is more likely to already have someone living in there. As long as a landlord believes he can make more money renting the apartment to someone else, he is more likely to evict the person that is already living there.

            The article you posted doesn’t actually disagree with my assessment. The author proposes increasing the supply of affordable housing by improving “inclusionary housing laws”. He concludes that the situation can be improved if the city can “change the Ellis Act to stop speculator evictions of rent control tenants, amend Costa Hawkins to prevent rent gouging, and require developers to include affordable rental units in any new construction.”

            Notice that the author in your article does not propose stopping the development of new construction. In fact, much of what he is proposing actually requires new construction to be built. The construction of market rate and below market rate apartments are not mutually exclusive events. He instead advocates improving legislation so that a larger percentage of this new construction includes more affordable units.

            Based on this conclusion, new construction should A) Not invoke Ellis Act to evict current residents B) Not charge tenants substantially more rent than the tenants before them and C) Increase the supply of affordable housing. This particular building satisfies points A & B since the land was previously leased for commercial use, and satisfies point C by providing 42 units of affordable housing. It’s one thing to argue that this isn’t enough, but that’s an argument to change legislation, not block construction entirely.

  • Kristy

    The fact that Sam has no understanding whatsoever of the history of gentrification in San Francisco and discrimination in the US (and San Francisco) housing market is sadly unsurprising. Clearly he is the recipient of an education that focused little on such matters. Those of us who’ve seen the statistics know he’s an ignorant fool. There’s no point in arguing with him.

    What’s frustrating is that his perspective here represents the massive group of people in SF, largely middle-upper class transplants, who really have no understanding or education with regard to such matters and who utterly fail to explore the statistical research that reveal Homee and other’s assertions to be factual supported. He may as well argue that building more expensive condos won’t push poor people out — oh wait, he actually DID say that.

    It’s likely he’s never heard of redlining, and clearly he’s not going to make any effort to research the topic. The wool is over his eyes and I’m guessing that no amount of pleading with him to take a peak outside will be successful. What’s heartbreaking and tragic and brings tears to my SF-born eyes is that he’s one of a herd that clearly have no compassion or empathy across class or race lines. He really doesn’t believe that building more upscale housing will displace low income and working class families in the neighborhood — this is evident in his comment about the “self-selected group” who happen to be the closest neighbors to the proposed project, who I’m assuming most would actually see as primary stakeholders.

    These people are pickled in white supremacy (bell hooks style) and free market capitalism — these ideologies are not only normalized to them, but they are not even seen as ideologies — they assume the underlying beliefs to be universal truths that shall not be questioned or challenged.

    • Sam

      Playing a race card has evidently become so endemic and natural to the NIMBY’s that they now play it automatically and unquestioningly, as if they believe that the simple act of gratuitously introducing race as a factor will magically and instantly win the debate for them.

      One more time, this project has nothing to do with race, and attempts to introduce identity politics into an architectural debate is cheap, distasteful and prejudicial.

    • matt

      I like how Sam offers one rational response and everyone in this thread instantly calls him racist.

      Also I fail to see how a building that currently houses a Walgreens and a burger king, being replaced with additional housing could possibly be a bad thing. We are in a housing crisis, any additional housing should be welcome. I am assuming that most of the working class people in the area and probably rent control and so shouldn’t even need to worry about the increasing rent prices in the area.

      Unfortunately we have this vocal minority that feels that any construction is bad construction. Well I for one support it, sorry but yes you are a minority and yes the Majority of us hope you dont get your way.

      • Jonathan

        we want housing development, but we don’t want billionaire east coast developers coming in to build luxury high rise housing, this needs to be turned over to one of the non profit community based developers who will build something that benefits the local community, not wealthy east coast developers.

        • Sam

          Jonathan, earlier you were arguing that nobody deserves a housing subsidy. But here you are arguing for to confiscate the wealth of others to feather the nests of your friends.

          I smell greed and envy, but it is from you and not those who take risks to provide housing. you want something for nothing, and it is repugnant and out of touch with the New Mission.

  • That graph is price v condo “units in buildings with new permits,” not overall supply, but it shows what I’ve been saying:
    You can clearly see that as prices rise, more new condos are built. Developers see rising prices and say, “let’s build something! Demand is high here!”

    • Sam

      Exactly, Sonja. I’ve seen people try and correlate new build to higher home prices before and they always make the wrong connection. It’s not new build that drives up prices, but rather you only see new build happens when the motivation of rising prices is already happening.

      That is why we saw few new developments start in 2008, when Re prices were falling. And why we are seeing many new developments now that Re inflation has returned.

      They confuse correlation and causation. In fact, new supply acts to reduce prices, or at least make them lower than they otherwise would be. Their argument is self-serving and disingenuous.

      • Eleen Tigur

        “It’s not new build that drives up prices, but rather you only see new build happens when the motivation of rising prices is already happening.

        That is why we saw few new developments start in 2008, when Re prices were falling. And why we are seeing many new developments now that Re inflation has returned.”

        Lack of credit was the reason.

        And prices were falling because? Oh right of an enormous global economic crisis which had it’s roots in?… Ding ding ding! A housing bubble.

        Seriously… look it up. I’m gonna give you benefit of the doubt here.

        • Sam

          You’re agreeing with me although you probably do not realize it. Higher prices drive new development. And a major reason for higher prices is that we haven’t built enough homes.

  • matt

    I really don’t see where the issue is here. Were in a housing crises and these people oppose the renovation of a dilapidated Bart terminal because it might oppose some sunlight on a schoolyard? That entire area is an eyesore and I dont see how this development could be anything but a good thing.

    This is stupid, build the damn thing, the city benefits from more tax revenue and more supply will eventually equal lower housing costs, its a win for everyone involved. We have way too many people in this city who oppose every single freaking building project just because it might change the character of their neighborhood, or obscure some view that they have.

    • Eleen Tigur

      What is the exact tax revenue figure?

      “We have way too many people in this city who oppose every single freaking building project just because it might change the character of their neighborhood, or obscure some view that they have.”

      Of course they do. Welcome to San Francisco. You must be new in town.

      • Sam

        Eleen, does it make you feel physically sick when you see all those condo towers going up in SOMA, mid-Market and elsewhere?

        And would you be much happier or richer if they were all torn down?

  • Stellar with SOM builds the same pro-forma developments in Brooklyn, the displacement and gentrification is clearly the same troupe of actors and gravy train developers that bring you treasure island and Parkmerced……

    Sorry Sam, the development proposal stinks. Goldin stinks even more after this effort. Watch what they try to do with the SOTA site next.