Bayview-Hunters Point Turns Out in Force Against Redevelopment

by Casey Mills on March 8, 2006

The San Francisco Redevelopment Commission voted last night to approve the transformation of 1,200 acres of Bayview-Hunters Point into a Redevelopment Area. The vote came in the face of massive turnout from Bayview/Hunters-Point residents and community activists at the meeting, many of which came out strongly against a Redevelopment Area. Speaking before the Commission’s hearing and at a press conference beforehand, a variety of speakers argued that the Redevelopment Agency has not changed since it played a central role in displacing the black Fillmore community in the 60s, and continues to work towards allowing private developers to profit off the displacement of low-income communities and communities of color like Bayview/Hunters-Point.

The Redevelopment Agency presented their plan for Bayview/Hunters Point at the outset of last night’s meeting. Agency officials said that as a Redevelopment Area, the large chunk of land under Redevelopment control would improve drastically, with the Agency helping to increase economic activity, provide jobs, and help build affordable housing while removing ‘blight’.

A large number of speakers at yesterday’s hearing, however, said they lived in Bayview/Hunters-Point and did not want their homes in the hands of the Agency. Many said they were Bayview residents who first moved to the neighborhood in the 60s, when they were forced out of their homes in the Fillmore and Western Addition. Victims of an Agency plan to reduce blight in these neighborhoods, these residents said they did not want to move again due to Agency interference in their community. They also said that, like the 60s, the Redevelopment Plan was more about forcing people of color out of their homes than improving them.

“I’m here to fight for my people, my friends, my family, and my race,” said Ahimsa Porter Sumchai. “We will not be run out of the city because we’re black. That’s what it’s about – this is because we’re black and they want our land.”

Agency officials responded that they had learned from their mistakes in the Fillmore and that the current plan represents a break from that past. They argued that the tax money coming from new development within the Plan’s borders would help turn around the Bayview/Hunters-Point community. However, other residents claimed the Bayview was already turning around, and the Plan merely represented an attempt to profit off of it.

“We people have been here while the neighborhood has been down and out, and now the neighborhood is becoming better and better,” said James Keith, a 55-year resident of Bayview. “I don’t want to be from the outside looking in as Bayview progresses.”

Residents expressed concern that should the Agency take over the area, the new housing built in the neighborhood would mostly be market-rate housing, available to upper-income people who do not currently live in the neighborhood. Several residents said new development in the area was already forcing many to move away from Bayview/Hunters-Point to outlying areas, and did not want that trend to continue.

In addition, many said that promises of jobs in the past from city agencies have not materialized, and suspect the Redevelopment Agency will not follow through either.

Last night’s hearing revealed the Plan created deep divisions in the community, with people coming down on both sides of the issue. A significant number of community members came out in support of the plan, largely because they said they believed the Plan could provide them with much-needed jobs and job training. Opponents to the Plan, however, provided harsh criticism towards both the process of creating the Plan – which they said did not include enough community involvement – and those neighborhood representatives pushing it.

“The black community has been sold out by black leaders who claim to have their best interests at hand,” said Shanell Williams, a former Youth Commissioner.

The Plan now moves on to the Board of Supervisors, which must give it final approval. Supervisor Sophie Maxwell and Mayor Gavin Newsom have already co-signed a letter in support of the Plan that was submitted to the Redevelopment Agency last night.

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