SOMA Community Members, Allies Slam Mayor Over Rincon Plan

by Casey Mills on July 29, 2005

A group of South of Market residents, activists, and city-wide allies joined together yesterday for a protest outside the office of Mayor Gavin Newsom. Charging the Mayor with trying to steal money from the poor, the group demanded Newsom support a plan that would keep all the money gleaned from development fees in Rincon Hill within the SOMA community. Recent proposals by members of the Board of Supervisors have tried to spread these funds city-wide, causing anger amongst SOMA advocates who claim their hard work brought the funds to the city, only to be raided by others.

The South of Market Community Coalition (SCC), which organized the protest, and Supervisor Chris Daly recently struck a deal with developers that forced them to pay a total of $25 per square foot in development fees for all new development in the newly formed Rincon Hill Redevelopment Area. The deal called for all income generated from these fees to stay in SOMA, as that neighborhood would disproportionately bear the burden of new development there.

Now however, a plan has surfaced to spread the money city-wide, a plan protestors lambasted Newsom and his staff for appearing to support.

“We’re here to expose our rage to the Mayor,” said South of Market Community Action Network’s Angelica Cabande. “He’s trying to take resources out of our community. SOMA has been underserved for years, and he hasn’t said anything about it. But now SOMA is getting something back.and now he has something to say about it.”

Many of the protestors, including United Playaz’ Rudy Corpus, also emphasized the historic disadvantages endured by the SOMA community, including long-term trends of displacement and poverty. This past, he argued, made the need for a new chunk of funding to the area all the more important.

“Our neighborhood has always been disrespected,” said Corpus. “If we truly believe this is our community, we got to fight for what’s ours.I’ve shed blood and tears in this neighborhood, and I’ll do whatever it takes to continue this struggle for the have-nots.”

SCC delivered a letter detailing their demands for the development fees to stay in SOMA to the Mayor’s press chief Peter Ragone, who stepped out to address the protestors. Ragone remained steadfastly noncommittal, saying that the issue was currently before the Board of Supervisors, and that the Mayor would take a position on it once the Board had reached a proposal.

He avoided or denied accusations that the Mayor had already taken a position, and was already negotiating with various members of the Board to achieve a city-wide allocation of the funds. Daly’s legislative aide Rachel Redondiez categorized this sort of behavior as par for the course for the Mayor’s office.

“What’s frustrating is that the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development (MOED) just said two weeks ago that developers can’t afford more than $20 a square foot,” said Redondiez. “Now that there’s an unprecedented agreement between community and developers to pay $25 into a mitigation fund, they’re trying to get their hands on the in-lieu fees.”

The in-lieu fees she’s talking about were also cited by protestors as a bone of contention. Mayor’s Office of Housing head Matt Franklin has proposed that just 25 percent of in-lieu fees, paid by developers in place of building the required amount of affordable housing, would stay in South of Market.

Even by Franklin’s calculations, out of the 2200 luxury condos to be built in the area, this would only create 150 affordable units. Daly’s office places the number even lower, at about 87.

The Board will decide on Franklin’s proposals and the Board’s two proposals, or some compromise between them, next week.

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