Protest over ‘backroom deal’ on Excelsior affordable housing project

Community leaders cry foul over closed-door Safai talks with Safeway and Bridge Housing

A deal to build an affordable housing complex in the Excelsior with a community health clinic on the first floor is now up in the air, and community advocates are complaining about “backroom deals” involving BRIDGE Housing, Safeway, and Sup. Ahsha Safai.

The Bridge project, which is set to turn an old funeral home at 4840 Mission into 134 below-market units, originally included Mission Neighborhood Health Center as a ground-floor tenant, Brenda Storey, the center’s executive director, told me.

Protesters want more of a say in the Excelsior affordable housing project

 

But a few weeks ago, BRIDGE officials called her into a meeting and said that the clinic would no longer have that space, she said. “They told me they were looking at relocating Safeway into the ground floor.”

There’s a Safeway right next door to the site — and according to activists who rallied Friday at the site, closed-door discussions have centered on moving that store into the affordable housing complex — which would allow a developer to build market-rate housing where the Safeway now stands.

The Safeway building is owned by the National Electrical Contractors Association Pension Fund. Nobody at that group could be reached for comment.

A handout distributed at the rally sponsored by Communities United for Health and Justice, said that the Emerald Fund, a prominent local developer, was interested in the property. Oz Erickson, the head of Emerald, did not return my emails requesting comment.

The main complaint from community leaders: The talks have been going on without them. “Our community is responsible for what happens here,” former Sup. John Avalos said. 

Safai told me that he has, indeed, been holding discussions on the project and that the concept of “a grocery store” on the ground floor was on the table:

Because we are in a housing crisis and particularly an affordable housing crisis I’ve been talking to as many people as possible about how we could fully maximize any proposed developments in my district, including 4840 Mission. We have been listening to ideas on how to expand the opportunity to enhance community benefits at this site, including a grocery store. Whatever the outcome I support 100% the Mission Neighborhood Health Centers place in any project that would be built and only adding affordable housing to the original proposal.

And BRIDGE in effect confirmed that there are talks about changing the original scope of the project:

Kevin Griffith, director of business development, said:

A permanent home for Mission Neighborhood Health Center’s Excelsior Clinic is fundamental to our development and we have no intention of changing that. There is a potential opportunity to expand our  project to include additional neighborhood benefits, including more affordable housing and a brand new grocery store, and it would be irresponsible not to investigate the possibility fully. The only reason we would consider and support such a proposal is if there were a significant increased benefit to the community. We need to bring the community in to the conversation as we always do on our projects, but we cannot begin the conversation until a feasibility analysis has been completed—we expect that to occur within the next few weeks. We look forward to discussing 4840 Mission with the entire neighborhood as soon as possible.

If those responses sound a bit cryptic to you, you’re not alone.

Among those at the rally were representatives of the Chinese Progressive Association, Chinatown Community Development Center, National Union of Healthcare Workers, June Jordan School for Equity, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, and La Colectiva de Mujeres.

So it’s clear that something is going on with this site, and that the neighborhood so far hasn’t been involved — and that a fair number of folks are unhappy. As one speaker at the rally said, “Safai forgets that he is a public servant. He needs to sit at the table with us.”

18 COMMENTS

  1. Clear? Safai's last sentence does not make sense. Where is the clinic (new proposal)? Will the building be two stories taller? How does the number and size of units per the revised proposal compare with those of the original proposal?

  2. The usual nuts in the SF asylum claiming that if we build less housing, housing will be cheaper. Math was never their strong suit.

  3. Wonder Boy Daly was last seen living in Fairfield in a house paid for by his father-in-law and commuting to Las Vegas to his job with the Nevada teacher's union.

  4. Wow. Secret talks. You guys should nail him for violating the Brown Act and Sunshine Ordinance. Seriously. You should ask for his calendar and meeting records.

    And certainly, if he is found to be meeting with people who want to build housing in his district then I think that a jail term is clearly in order for him.

  5. One has to wonder why Kraus goes on and on about something s/he calls much ado about nothing. Safai is having secret talks with Bridge and Emerald Fund, two entities who contributed to his campaign. Nothing to see behind this curtain. And the plan for the neighboring building is for market rate, not BMR.

  6. …and @Heart doesn't need to consider the facts and logic. He reads what Tim Redmond writes (in this case what Avalos tells him to write) and accepts it as absolute truth.

    Much easier that way.

  7. Trolls here are tossing empty, hollow ad hominem attacks instead of focusing on the critical issue: developers and Safai are shutting neighbors and residents out of the conversation.

  8. John tried to move up – the voters decided he wasn't as exciting as Mattie G and he lost big time.

    To Peskin's credit. He stayed on the sidelines.

    Which makes me wonder – what happened to Wonder Boy Chris Daly?

  9. <blockquote>Story gets John "I want a divorce to marry my assistant" Avalos back into the picture?</blockquote>Well yeah…there are no term limits on parasites, as Peskin proved. People like Chiu and Weiner eventually move up, others have the goal of simply being ineffective in San Francisco until they retire.

  10. Avalos could help with the housing crisis and use less fossil fuel if he would move to where he works in Emeryville. At a minimum he could take transit to work rather than drive his car.

  11. Possible delay for clinic of 2-4+ yrs?

    Potential clients having to cross the street, though probably less often to go to clinic than to shop for groceries?

    Story gets John "I want a divorce to marry my assistant" Avalos back into the picture?

  12. I think they are concerned that the original Safeway site could be developed in a way that would bring undesirables into their neighborhood.

    I think 'cryptic' means that that there is no explicit assurance being given that the undesirables will be kept out. Obviously the health care clinic would be just fine if it was located above the Safeway or some similar space. They can make big elevators nowadays.

  13. This article is much ado about nothing. Trying to create a controversy and implying that some kind of conspiracy is afoot when there is, in fact, none.

    The proposed health clinic is not threatened.

    There simply appears to be an opportunity to create even more below-market-rate (BMR) housing by initially moving the existing adjacent Safeway into the currently-proposed BMR housing development rather than the clinic.

    This sequence would free-up the land currently occupied by the Safeway for even more BMR housing development and in the subsequent development the clinic would have a new home.

    Thereby, the neighborhood gets a lot more BMR housing, retains the grocery store (albeit a new/improved one — oh the horror! ) and gets a health clinic to boot.

    Sounds like sensible, forward-thinking land-use planning that maximizes the potential yield of BMR housing. Isn't that a good thing?

    What exactly is so nefarious about all of this?