A proposed affordable housing project containing 150 apartments for low-income seniors, 20 to 30 percent of them formerly homeless, has given residents of San Francisco's monied Forest Hill neighborhood a frightful shock.
"[It's] not a question of being a NIMBY," explained Joe Bravo according to the Chronicle. "It’s a question of saving the hill," he grandly declared. Bravo, an attorney leading the fight against the development, criticized its size in particular. “This is a huge development for the area," he said. "It would be perfect for somewhere along the Van Ness corridor next to a Holiday Inn.”
The lawyer and his neighbors gathered last night at the Forest Hill Clubhouse, a Bernard Maybeck-designed building owned and maintained by a group of local homeowners. There, the Forest Hill Neighborhood Association voiced their concerns and eventually voted to unanimously reject the proposed housing, which was put forward just last month by Christian Church Homes and celebrated in City Hall by the mayor and others.
“Equity in terms of where we are creating affordable housing is a big issue for the mayor,” Jeff Buckley, senior adviser to the mayor on housing issues, told the Chronicle. It's more cost-effective to build affordable housing in wealthy, less-dense neighborhoods, but more often than not such housing winds up in poorer neighborhoods anyway, and this neighborhood hubbub might begin to explain why.
The project, Christian Church Homes explains on its website, "is one of four new affordable housing projects in San Francisco to be funded using Proposition A funds." That refers to the 2015 ballot measure that gave a $310 million housing bond for the creation of affordable housing, the Examiner recalls. The project would be built at the current site of the Forest Hill Christian Church at 250 Laguna Honda Blvd.
Mark Watts, president of the Forest Hill Association Board of Directors, said the proposal looks "like a Russian gulag,” and, careful to point out that he was speaking for others and not himself, added that “People are afraid of formerly homeless people wandering around the neighborhood attacking our kids and pushing our elderly down. That is not something I am worried about, but that is what people are afraid of.”
According to the Examiner, others expressed those concerns more directly. The housing project, they believe, would serve “severely mentally ill” and “severely drug addicted” people, as the Examiner quotes one woman as saying. "What resources will you deploy 24 hours a day to make sure my 11-year-old is safe?" she asked. According to the Ex, she wished to remain anonymous because "she is fearful her future employment in the technology industry would be harmed if employers saw she opposed affordable housing."
Kathleen Mertz, vice president of development for Christian Church Homes, attended the meeting. “I’m there to listen,” the Chronicle quotes her as saying before the meeting. “Everyone needs to participate together to help be part of the solutions of the affordability crisis in San Francisco. I would argue that being able to live and thrive and age in place in San Francisco is part of making a holistic and inclusive community. That means having housing for people at all income levels, all family types and all life stages.” She hadn't prepared a rebuttal and didn't offer one.
The project needs Board of Supervisors approval to move forward, but currently, the neighborhood's supervisor Norman Yee says he must echo his constituents. “I am unable to support... this project in its current form,” Yee told the Chronicle.