The lessons of the Monster in the Mission

Developers never come to the table with their best offer -- and in this case, Maximus has pissed of the community and is only putting forward a vague proposal to people who don't trust the company.

There are a few important lessons to draw from the proposal that the developer of the Monster in the Mission has now put forward as a best-and-final offer.

Lesson Number One: No developer ever comes to the table with their best offer unless the community, with the support of City Hall, makes it clear that the project isn’t going to fly.

Developers never make their best offer until they face community opposition.

Maximus wanted to build a relatively small amount of affordable housing as part of a project that would add 341 housing units to 16thand Mission. Maximus offered 41 on-site affordable units – that’s 12 percent.

The Mission has been united in opposition to the project (except for a group entirely funded by Maximus).

So now the offer has been sweetened, a lot: Maximus says it will buy two other sites in the Mission – 2675 Folsom and 2918 Mission – which together have been approved for 192 (mostly market-rate) housing units. Then the company would turn the sites over to the city for affordable housing, which according to the Chron, “Maximus would help finance.”

If, in fact, Maximus bought those sites, gave them to the city, and paid to build truly affordable housing on them, the percentage of affordable units would rise to 56 percent.

Without strong opposition to the original plan, the city would get 41 units, not 192. Clearly, Maximus can afford a lot more than it initially offered.

Lesson Number Two: You can’t do this kind of project in a neighborhood as well organized as the Mission without a credible community-outreach program. Maximus has pretty much pissed off everyone (including labor). If you wanted to do a case study in how not to do a project in San Francisco, this would be it. “They have become so toxic that even people who support more market-rate housing are offended by them,” Ronen said.

And now, to make things worse, Maximus is threatening to go to the ballot with a special initiative to approve the plan. That feels like the community and the supervisors are being bullied – which won’t work in the Mission.

Lesson Number Three: You have to have a real plan – and this doesn’t look like one.

Maximus doesn’t own the two sites that it is promising to the city. There’s no clear indication that the owners of those sites, who already have entitlements to build market-rate housing, want to sell – and if they do, what the price would be.

And the developer hasn’t shown anyone how it plans to finance the affordable housing, what the “affordable” levels would be, and how much it would contribute.

“I am always open to creative ideas,” Ronen said. “If there’s a plan to create 192 affordable units in the Mission, without a cent from the city, I am of course interested. But they made this vague offer about land they don’t even own.”

Ronen remains neutral about the project, which may come before the board, but she said she needs a lot more information.

There’s a lot of feeling out there that this is just another developer trick. Maximus has played a lot of games here, and people in the Mission don’t trust the company.

I emailed Jack Davis, a political consultant working for Maximus, and asked if he could explain how the proposal would work. He sent me the following: “Tim. Never find you to be a fair minded person. Hope you are well. Best Jack.”

The Planning Commission will hold a community meeting on the project in the Mission Thursday/7. The meeting starts at 4pm in the Mission High School Auditorium, 3750 18thStreet. The developer will make a presentation, and I expect the community – and the commissioners – will have a lot of questions.