Wednesday, December 4, 2013

San Francisco Progress Meets Lefty Wackos

San Francisco magazine reports:

On October 18, Maximus Real Estate Partners filed an application with the San Francisco Planning Department to build a 10-story mixed-use building, with 351 mostly market-rate apartments and 32,000 square feet of ground-level retail space, on the northeast corner of...wait for it...16th and Mission streets.

Yes, 16th and Mission, one of the grittiest, most drug-riddled, crime-plagued intersections in the entire city. For decades, it has been a notorious hangout for junkies, “smash and grab” thieves who prey on parked cars, prostitutes, the mentally ill, the substance addicted, and assorted other criminals and lost souls. It’s on turf controlled by the SureƱo street gang and has been the site of numerous murders, the most recent a shooting on October 20. And of its four unlovely corners, the northeast is the most downtrodden. The dingy open space surrounding the BART entrance abuts a singularly unattractive building, its ugly gray walls painted over, with a Burger King and a shuttered-up dollar store as its tenants, giving off the vibe of a dismal mini-mall. Protected by an incongruous metal fence is a Walgreens that extends to the north along Mission.

An urbanist’s dream of welcoming public space, it isn’t. On a recent morning, a nearby bench was occupied by an agitated-looking transvestite in a yellow wig who suddenly began screaming loudly to no one. Two police officers were standing on the corner, part of what is apparently a new SFPD tactic. (A resident said that the cops had only recently started working the corner in the morning and that street problems had greatly improved as a result.) Asked what kind of crimes are most common, one of the cops said, “You get everything here,” before he and his partner got a radio call and hurried off across the street.

Sixteenth and Mission is not only one of the most dangerous intersections in the city; it also happens to be home to one of only eight BART stations in San Francisco. That weird combination, plus the fact that every techie in the universe is willing to pay $3,500 a month to live in the neighborhood, paradoxically makes it a city planner’s ideal location for high-density, transit-oriented housing. A big market-rate development would help alleviate the city’s severe housing shortage, and the influx of middle-class renters with political muscle would have an immediate and dramatic effect on the crime, filth, and squalor that plague the intersection. From that 30,000-feet-above- the-ground perspective, green-lighting the development is an almost laughable no-brainer: If anyone 20 years ago had predicted that a developer would be willing to spend $82 million of private money on a high-end multiuse building—including not just apartments but also a much-needed grocery store—at 16th and Mission, he would have been told to go peddle some prime Florida swampland. It’s an opportunity to improve a severely blighted corner that seems almost too good to be true.

But to Gabriel Medina, policy manager for the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), the proposed development is a nightmare. “This development would devastate the neighborhood,” Medina says.


  1. Well, sure it would be a nightmare. It would wipe out his client base. It's funny how people think that government and "the people" have the same goals.

  2. assuming comments on yelp