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DevelopmentIt's the mayor, not the neighborhood, slowing affordable housing in the Haight

It’s the mayor, not the neighborhood, slowing affordable housing in the Haight

Community groups have pushed for a project at 730 Stanyan that the Mayor's Office has repeatedly, inexplicably, delayed.

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What most of the major news stories miss about the affordable housing project at 730 Stanyan is the critical community organizing that has happened in support of it—while the mayor and the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development have continued to delay its development and use.

Through the Coalition for a Complete Community at 730 Stanyan, local residents, neighborhood groups, and service providers have organized to create final and interim uses for the site that are truly reflective of the larger Haight Ashbury community—a community that for five years has fully supported the development of this 100 percent affordable housing. This has been done in the face of a scattered and incoherent planning and implementation process that has lacked transparency with the community, where the mayor and MOHCD are responsible for a minimum two-year delay of the construction of this much needed affordable housing.

A CCC event at 730 Stanyan. Photo by David Woo

The major Yimby narrative is that affordable housing activists, local neighborhoods, and the Board of Supervisors are the problem, and the reason housing is not affordable.

In reality, as 730 Stanyan shows, neighborhoods such as the Haight Ashbury, and members of the Board of Supervisors who recently voted to approve applications for this and other affordable housing sites, fully support 100 percent affordable housing. At 730 Stanyan, it’s the executive branch that is causing the delay in building the project.

This should also be understood in the context of the upcoming November election, where the community backed affordable housing measure Proposition E “Homes for Families and Workers” is the only measure that would provide oversight on the Mayor, MOHCD, and City departments regarding affordable housing.

In 2017, the Coalition for a Complete Community at 730 Stanyan (CCC), a coalition of residents, direct service organizations, and neighborhood groups in the Haight Ashbury, came together after the purchase of the site was announced by MOHCD, to ensure a community driven process for the development of 100 percent affordable housing. The CCC held a series of public community meetings where community members put forward a vision for the final development of the site as well as the interim use.

The CCC’s community centered plan for 730 Stanyan calls for the final site to provide housing for Transitional Age Youth (TAY), Families, and Seniors, and to include on-site services, community serving retail, and community space. Due to advocacy by the CCC and neighbors, TAY were included as one of the target populations for the final affordable housing, and commitments have been made to “affirmatively market” units for seniors.

While construction on the site was originally supposed to begin by 2022 at the latest, in May of 2021 the Mayor and MOHCD abruptly changed the design of the project, delaying the start of construction by at least another two years. The project was deep into the design process by that point, with several public meetings on the scope and design of the project already held by MOHCD and the developer. Changing plans at the last minute without any public process marks a continued lack of transparency and delay by the City in developing this project.

The initial promise of interim uses for the site has proven to be hollow, with the site still sitting empty to this day. In early 2019, the CCC responded to MOHCD’s interim use Request for Proposals, submitting a community-based interim use proposal that reflected the CCC’s vision for the final use in having an interim use that supports TAY, families, and seniors by providing on-site services, activities, and programming. There were only two responses to the RFP, including the CCC community driven proposal. After responding to and scoring both proposals, MOHCD abruptly canceled the interim use RFP process without explanation and decided instead to leave the site vacant.

Since then, the 730 Stanyan site has only been briefly used four times: first, it was used as a parking lot during the winter of December 2019; second, the site was successfully used as the CAMP Safe Sleeping Village for houseless neighbors from May 2020 until June 2021, during which houseless residents were assisted into permanent housing through the site.

The third and fourth times, the CCC held successful one-day events in February and May of 2022, demonstrating the CCC interim use proposal by providing TAY and senior services, activities for families and children, music, movies, COVID vaccinations, and other programming, and drawing over 200 people to the site at each event.

There had been an agreement with the city in 2021 to continue using the site to provide TAY services, however the mayor abruptly reversed that decision, continuing a pattern of broken promises to the community for interim uses on the site.

With the housing measures Props D and E on the ballot this November, it is important to reflect on the experience of 730 Stanyan as voters go to the polls. The mayor, tech, and Yimby backed Prop. D redefines affordable housing to a level that’s market-rate in much of the city and actually removes oversight. Prop E would help create real affordable housing, and would provide oversight requiring annual reports from the Mayor, MOHCD, and City Departments on the City’s affordable housing goals.

As 730 Stanyan shows, there are better outcomes when neighborhood residents, service providers, and organizations are organized and involved in neighborhood-based planning decisions. True community-based planning and development means working with and reflecting the needs of the community. The mayor and MOHCD must stop delaying the construction of this urgently needed affordable housing, and support community calls for final and interim-uses that serve TAY, families, and seniors.

David Woo is co-chair, Coalition for a Complete Community at 730 Stanyan.

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