by Fernando A. Torres
Full of optimism were different community leaders who attended the ceremony of the “first stone” of a pair of buildings that will be built on the grounds of the 1950 Mission Street with 16th Street. The departments that will be built in the heart of the neighborhoods will be 100 percent affordable for low and middle-income families.
The project promoted by the Mission Housing Development Corporation and Housing BRIDGE not only marks a milestone in the brutal housing crisis that suffers the city of San Francisco but also shows that with the unity of various community organizations, it is possible to build 100 percent affordable apartments.
According to the community leaders who attended the inauguration event on Monday 18, the inauguration of this new building means that the unity and persistence of the community bear positive fruit and that solutions should never be underestimated from the grassroots, nor should hope be lost in the forces live from the community.
The president of the Council of the 24th Street Latino Cultural District, Erick Arguello, said that the project is also an example for the whole country that is possible – contrary to the predictions of millionaire builders (developers) – to build homes that are not at the price of the runaway market and that they are 100 percent affordable.
According to the executive vice-president of the organization Mission Housing Development Corporation, Marcia Contreras, 157 units will be part of two buildings; one of nine and another of five floors that will occupy a plot of 3,381 square meters. A family of 4 with an income of more than 70 thousand dollars a year could pay in rent about 30 percent of their income according to the Average Income of the Area / Area Median Income, said Contreras.
“The community had a lot to do when they had to raise their voices saying ‘we need more homes that we can afford’. This is their solution and it is one of the reasons why we are in this area today and we are part of this community, we are a community organization established more than 46 years ago,” she said.
Twenty-five percent of the units will be for homeless people, who lack housing and another 25 percent will be for people who live in the neighborhood of District 9. On the first floor, there will be a childcare center ran by Mission Neighborhood Centers; a bicycle exchange youth program called Bicis del Pueblo, ran by the Poder organization. There will also be space for small merchants and studios for artists. “The Mission is not The Mission without our artists. We will also have space for them, “said Contreras.
“It’s the effect of community work. The fruit of the work that the community has been doing for the last eight years. It is a great emotion to see this. When we were pushing for 100 percent affordable housing, they told us that it could not be done, that the city did not have money, that you could not build housing that was not at the market price, luxury housing. And they said no. But we did not listen to them, the community did not listen to them. And the community continued to work; We had a vision, a dream and this is part of the dream and it’s just the beginning, “said Arguello.
For the well-known leader of the Mission and executive producer of the SF Carnival Roberto Hernández, many Latinos have been forced to leave the Mission. “So many rich people who have come here and they are taking us out. This is another opportunity to keep Latinos here in the Barrio and in San Francisco … For me this is something historic. I am very happy because I have many years of fighting with many people for housing for the dishes, for the lady who is a nanny or who cooks and people who do not have the income to live in San Francisco, “said Hernandez, who Mayor London Breed named him the “Mayor of the Mission.”
Hernandez said that the main problem is the price of housing rents that continue to rise. Leasing a studio in San Francisco can cost up to $3,700. “Who can pay for that? It is a crime what they are doing and there is no way to control that. The only way is to build housing for people who are not rich. People have to sign up to opt for the homes we’ve fought here in San Francisco. Compared with other groups, Latinos are not registering, “Hernández warned.
Anne Cervantes is the architect in charge of the project. She proposed ideas and concepts to incorporate the community as a fundamental part in its development. In his 25 years as an architect, this project is special because it has to do with the eviction and displacement, “the eviction of families, the eviction of the homeless, eviction of artists.” The project will offer construction work to young people who will be trained by special programs in the city. “Never lose hope. This project means hope for all, “said Cervantes.
It is important “to identify cultural assets because if you take away our language and culture, we are left without a place. It is language and culture that create a place. To recognize this is to surpass the colonization of being assimilated to the American society. And that’s why we all love each other for our culture and our language, “said Cervantes.
Santiago Ruíz is the executive director of Mission Neighborhood Centers / Mission Neighborhood Centers. The organization will be in charge of providing pre-school services to more than 40 children of future families living in the building. Ruiz said it is important “to continue the fight. This project is going to be carried out because there was always a strong voice from the community, which did not ask, but instead claimed. And it was through this claim that someone heard, he paid attention to us and followed the necessary steps so that those 150 families can live here, “Ruíz said.
At a cost of 105 million dollars, the project is expected to be completed in 2020. In the Mission District, eight affordable housing projects are in progress. The works have already begun in four of the sites; at 3001 Calle 24, 681 Florida Street and in 1990 Folsom Street. It is expected that the building of 82 affordable units in 490 Van Ness del Sur will also be completed in 2020.
One of the organizations that helps to fill out applications and forms for free is MEDA, Mission Economic Development Agency 415-282-3334 ext. 126;