Many Japantown residents want no part of seeing a luxury hotel there converted to supportive housing. Their supervisor Dean Preston takes up their cause, earning him grief from across the housing discourse spectrum.
When the city announced in August its intention to buy four hotels and convert them to homeless housing, there was definite “one of these things is not like the other” vibe to the hotels chosen. Namely, the Kimpton Buchanan Hotel in Japantown, run by the prestigious Kimpton Boutique Hotels + Restaurants group. That facility is, how do we say this diplomatically, a whole lot nicer and fancier than the other three hotels on that list.
It is also now different from the others in that it quickly garnered more neighborhood opposition. An online petition opposing the project has nearly 7,000 signatures as of press time. “This plan shall impact the destiny of Japantown and the area forever,” the petition says. “Our ancestors rebuilt Japantown after returning from their unjust incarceration during WW II. They rebuilt this area at great human sacrifice. All of us who now live, work, have businesses and worship in this Japantown/Western Addition/Lower Pac Heights neighborhood want to have decision-making in any plan that impacts the area and our lives.”
Japantown has endured a painful history of racist state-imposed decisions that left a legacy of distrust. From internment to redevelopment, we need to recognize that making decisions for, instead of with, the J-town community can reopen generational wounds. This cannot be ignored— Dean Preston (@DeanPreston) September 8, 2021
The Chronicle reported Tuesday Mayor Breed wanted to hit the brakes on that Buchanan purchase (while speeding up the purchase of two others), with a spokesperson saying they wanted more time to “listen to the community, hear their concerns, and try to incorporate their feedback.” Breed found an unlikely ally in that request — the district’s supervisor Dean Preston, a vocal advocate for hotel conversions who's been rather critical of Breed for not allegedly doing enough on that front.
We call on Supervisor Preston to stand up for the unhoused working class, to stand up for socialist values, and unequivocally support the purchase of 1800 Sutter, and the other available properties, without delay.— DSA San Francisco (@DSA_SF) September 9, 2021
The YIMBYs are jumping all over Preston for the supposed hypocrisy, which of course they are, they hate the guy. But Preston is also taking flak from his progressive supporters. This may or may not coincide with a sort of “clarification letter” Preston posted early Thursday evening, sent to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, but also posted publicly to his Twitter.
I wanted to share my appreciation for all the advocacy for supportive housing in D5. It's exciting to see such broad support for City acquisitions to house people. Here’s a letter I sent to HSH regarding Buchanan & other D5 sites. Thanks for your advocacy!https://t.co/OkCaRn0Ple— Dean Preston (@DeanPreston) September 10, 2021
“What has become clear from this outreach is that while the Buchanan presents an attractive opportunity on paper, and there is a strong desire across the board for permanent supporting housing in District 5, there are unique and significant impacts raised by community members on the sale of the Buchanan Hotel,” Preston says in the letter. “These concerns broadly fit into four categories: first, the impact of losing the tourist hotel; second, the impact on union workers who may lose their jobs; third, the process; and fourth, the alleged impact of having supportive housing at this site.”
Het then offers up two other nearby hotel options, the Majestic Hotel (1500 Sutter Street) and the Gotham Hotel (835 Turk Street), both of whom had expressed interest in selling.
The “more time for community outreach” is a risky proposition for these hotels, because time is of the essence. As Hoodline reports, the city has to purchase these hotels “by the end of the year in order to qualify for state matching funds to convert it into transitional housing for the homeless.”
Related: SF Plans to Buy Four More Hotels to Shelter Homeless Population [SFist]
Image: Kevin Y via Yelp