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Back to <-- DotComs and the Information Revolution

Rapid Changes Anger Mission District Residents
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Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Rapid Changes Anger Mission District Residents

Dot-com invasion draws fire at session
Tom Zoellner, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, June 29, 2000
2000 San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO -- Chairs were banged, voices were raised and insults were hurled last night during a community meeting about the dot-com transformation of the Mission District, but little changed by meeting's end.

San Francisco city officials told residents they were powerless to halt new construction and office conversions in the predominantly Latino neighborhood.

City Planning Director Gerald Green, whose department was accused last night of ``acts of racism and conspicuous classism,'' said he was sympathetic to complaints that the Mission's zoning plan was outdated.

But he did not agree to a key demand from the crowd of about 400 --a moratorium on construction of new housing units to be sold at market rates.

``The Planning Commission is only part of the planning process,'' he said. ``We will discuss the questions with the appropriate governing body,'' which he said was the Board of Supervisors.

On the stage above Green, Oscar Grande of the People Organized to Defend Economic and Environmental Rights held up a sign reading ``Mumbo Jumbo.''

``It's not easy to listen to critical comments, but it's part of the job,'' said Green after the meeting.

The Planning Department has become the recent focus of districtwide anger in one of the most contentious battles over neighborhood character in recent San Francisco history.

A flash point for yesterday's meeting was the Bryant Square project, a six-building high-tech complex that would occupy almost an entire block near the corner of 20th and Bryant streets. The development won approval from the Planning Commission last month and from the Board of Supervisors on Monday, despite protests from Mission residents.

This is only a taste of things to come, said Sam Ruiz of the Mission Neighborhood Centers.

``Your decisions have created an explosion of evictions, rent hikes and job losses for working-class people,'' Ruiz thundered at Green. ``We are outraged. We do not accept it when our grandmothers get eviction notices and when our jobs and livelihoods disappear. It is impossible to estimate the human cost of this reckless dot-com development.''

Amid catcalls and heckling, Green agreed to work with Mission residents in changing zoning designations.

``You have gotten through to me,'' he said. ``I am committing to working with the community in bringing about new zoning.''

He also promised to investigate the conversion of the Bayview Bank building into high-tech office space. Opponents have complained that the building has been illegally partitioned.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who attended the meeting at Horace Mann Middle School but did not speak, said afterward that he was not surprised by the passionate tone of some of the residents.

``They picked the wrong district to mess with,'' he said of the Planning Commission. ``There's a tradition of activism here that goes back to the 1960s and '70s.''

The political clout of the Mission will increase as the November election for the Board of Supervisors gets nearer, Ammiano said.

It will be the first election in many years in which supervisors will be elected by district instead of by the city at large, giving the Mission a stronger voice in receiving city services, Ammiano said.

The meeting, conducted in both English and Spanish by translators, was organized by the Mission Anti- Displacement Coalition, a consortium of small groups who say they are dedicated to keeping the neighborhood composed of ``low-income and Latino families, seniors, immigrants, artists and people who grew up here.''

Guille Arroyo said she was evicted from her apartment when she was eight months pregnant. ``We can't pay these rents that keep going up,'' she said to Green in Spanish. ``I'd like you to to know that immigrant people and their children are suffering.''

Scattered among the crowd was a hodgepodge of various community interests with differing agendas, but united in their displeasure over the changing demographics of the neighborhood.

Free-lance writer Nick Pasquariello passed around a petition labeled ``Stop the Monsters,'' in hopes of persuading the Planning Commission to halt the development of a 40-foot building next door to his studio apartment.

``I just want to be able to have a place that has sunlight,'' he said. ``Sunlight is very important.''

E-mail Tom Zoellner at [email protected]

2000 San Francisco Chronicle Page A17

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