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News + PoliticsThe attack on Soma: City wants to create a...

The attack on Soma: City wants to create a new downtown, wiping out culture and thousands of blue-collar jobs

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By Zelda Bronstein

(first of a series on South of Market development)

Four years ago, Donny Beckwith lived and worked in San Francisco. He and his wife rented a one-bedroom apartment on Nob Hill for $1,450 a month. “It was perfect for us,” Beckwith says. But when they started a family, they needed more space. “There was no way we could rent anything else in the city, and it was a good time to buy a house.” They bought one—in Castro Valley.

Beckwith still works in San Francisco, commuting to the same job he had in 2010. He manages Interior Moves, a South of Market business that receives, inspects, and installs high-end furniture. But if the city’s Planning Department has its way, he and the firm’s 13 other employees won’t be working in San Francisco much longer.

The planners want to change the zoning for a large swath of SoMa, including the 700 block of Harrison, where Interior Moves is a tenant. The new rules would allow the construction of offices, hotels and market-rate housing—now all prohibited—and would raise maximum building heights from 85 to 130 feet, or, in a “high rise alternative,” up to 400 feet. Rents would soar.

That, says Beckwith, “would drastically change our business. We’d have to go to the East Bay and cut our staff in half.”

They wouldn’t be the only ones. The planners themselves say that the proposed zoning would probably put at least 1,800 jobs “at risk.” That could mean the displacement of hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses.

While the displacement of residential tenants has become big news in this city, local blue-collar jobs and businesses are getting forced out of San Francisco, too – and if history is any precedent, the city is asking for a fight. (more after the jump)

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