Although many community voices during a public comment period at a Board of Supervisors meeting yesterday made the case to continue forward with a massive Mission District development on South Van Ness Avenue, some of those commenters appear to have made their case in such a way as to defeat their goal of pushing through a 157-unit project near 26th Street. Mission Local had the story of the hot-tempered meeting to weigh the merits of delaying the market-rate project with an appeal under the California Environmental Quality Act.
The proposed development at 1515 South Van Ness reached in August what Mission Local called an "unprecedented" decision to go with 25 percent affordable units. “We heard loud and clear: 25 percent, supported by rational research and the data, is the number,” Peter Schellinger, vice-president in Northern California for the developer Lennar Multifamily Communities said at the time. But even though similar CEQA appeals before the Board have been dismissed, this appeal was unanimously approved after an impassioned reply to a public comment period by Supervisor David Campos, who nears the end of his term.
Particularly, the comments of Sonja Trauss, the leader of the SF YIMBY party or "Yes In My Backyard," and SFBARF, "The San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation," set Campos off. Tensions were high and shouts were uttered as she took the mic to argue against the appeal with an artless analogy to Donald Trump.
Specifically Trauss addressed the criticism that newcomers, necessarily those able to afford the market-rate units in the development, would change the neighborhood. “When you come here to the Board of Supervisors and say that you don’t want new, different people in your neighborhood, you’re exactly the same as Americans all over the country that don’t want immigrants,” she said. “It’s the same attitude, it’s the exact same attitude.”
"I've always been disturbed by nativism in San Francisco," Trauss said.
After her comments, President of the Board of Supervisors London Breed said that there were "a lot of passionate people" in the room but that the outbursts had to stop. "Let us get through this," she said, a plea in her voice.
Per Mission Local:
Supervisor Aaron Peskin shook his head as Trauss spoke and sprang out of his seat, walking over to Supervisor David Campos across the chamber room. After another speaker lambasted activists for doing nothing about Mission gangs in the 1990s and called them hypocritical for only caring about the neighborhood now, it became clear that Campos was furious.
"I want to thank the representative from BARF and her comments about Donald Trump and her comments about nativism," Campos said, as he does in the above video at the 11 minute mark. "I actually think on the EIR questions, I'm not happy with what was presented by the appellants. I don't think they did a good enough job, but the thing about these appeals, is we have the ability to make and use our own independent judgment and assessment."
"I also want to thank the gentlemen who referenced the homeless and Latinos relative to gang activities and violence," Campos added, addressing another commenter. "Thank you for shedding light on this issue for me... I think we do need to go back and do further environmental review that looks at this issue of displacement."
Led by Campos, the Board unanimously voted to uphold the appeal, delaying the project until further review was conducted. Supervisors Wiener and Yee were absent.
"I want no part, whatsoever, in the age of Donald Trump," Campos declared, "with the kind of hateful, ignorant and divisive rhetoric that was presented here by these two individuals. I am willing to be sued and taken to court for saying that, bring it on, but if ever there's a time to stand by doing what is right, that is today." Here, Campos might mean that the Board's decision to grant the appeal on social/moral/emotional grounds could be challenged in court, as the question of whether the development is in violation of CEQA is separate.
Supervisor John Avalos spoke next to echo his colleague. "I have never ever uttered from my seat to people during public comment. I found the comments to be so offensive from that one individual. To think that we have a project before us that's defended with such ignorance and arrogance, it's beyond the pale."
After Trauss spoke a representative from the San Francisco electrical workers' union. "We support this project and we are against the appeal, it would bring a lot of work to people who live in the city and need to make a living," he said. Another labor representative added that he represent over 5,000 people, many who lived in the area, and though he implied an objection to Trauss's remarks, he expressed his constituents' support for the project.