Even More on Parkmerced; David Chiu Replies …

by on June 3, 2011

To the Editor:

As a current long-term Parkmerced resident, it has become apparent to me that opponents of this project have not read the development agreement with The City. No one is being evicted and new sustainable housing will be created before a “fully paid move-in” to new and better housing happens. This is a 20-30 year project (which was the timeline for the original construction of Parkmerced) and it creates new family oriented housing in a city which underserves that demographic. I applaud all six Supervisors who approved the project.

I’m not sure why David Chui is the focus of criticism. The progressive Supervisors David Campos, John Avalos, Ross Mirkarimi, Jane Kim and Eric Mar, who opposed the project, may realize that in eco-sensible San Francisco, their votes may affect their political career. After personally attending about 100 meetings where this project has been discussed, reviewed, and revised – I am a frustrated resident IN FAVOR of the project.

The frustrated resident in the article, Cathy Lentz, has been disruptive at other meetings where she and other opponents of the project had plenty of opportunities to share their opinions. Ms. Lentz should have been put in jail for striking a peace officer instead of being escorted out of the room. No one likes change but this change is for better “green” housing options, better transit, a better Parkmerced and a better San Francisco. Most of my neighbors are in favor of the project but don’t have the time to attend the many meetings to express their satisfaction and belief in the current ownership of Parkmerced.

J.F. Cook
San Francisco


To the Editor:

I’m writing in response to Dean Preston’s May 25th column on Parkmerced. I greatly admire Dean and his tenant advocacy work – and we’ve fought on the same side of many issues – but I want to respond to Dean’s assertions that my vote to support the Parkmerced project did not protect tenants, and explain my perspective on the project.

Developed in the 1940s, Parkmerced was a first home to many military families returning from the Second World War and the Korean War. Many decades later, the homes have deteriorated significantly. The Parkmerced proposal replaces 1,538 deteriorating units with 7,200 new, energy-efficient units. When the project, which currently houses about 8,000 residents, is completed, an additional 14,000 people will live in the 152-acre neighborhood. This project will increase density on the west side of the city, improve transit access and create a more livable community for all. It’s widely considered a national model for innovative, sustainable, transit-oriented urban planning.

I voted for Parkmerced because I believe strongly that it is the right decision for the resident tenants, for the larger neighborhood and for San Francisco. I made the decision because it was good policy — not because it was advantageous politics – and after making changes to the plan to further address the concerns raised by some Parkmerced tenants.

I have been a tenant during my entire time in San Francisco, and also have been a tenant advocate since my early days in San Francisco. Because I care deeply about tenants, I served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Chinatown Community Development Center, an organization that has developed affordable housing for over 2,000 tenants who are low-income immigrants, families and seniors.

As Supervisor, I have consistently stood with tenants. I have fought against the Ellis Act evictions of tenants, including several highly publicized cases in the northeast part of the city. I passed legislation to make it more difficult to evict tenants in order to build new garages, a disturbing trend in my district. I have worked to create more affordable housing in San Francisco through legislation that incentivized the construction of senior housing, created permanently affordable rental housing for homeless veterans, and facilitated the creation of housing cooperatives.

The latest Parkmerced plan will protect the tenants who currently live there, which is why many Parkmerced tenants support the project. As with the Trinity project championed by former Supervisor Chris Daly and approved unanimously by the Board in 2007, the Parkmerced tenants will be able to move directly from their existing units to replacement rent controlled units. No tenants will leave their homes until a rent-controlled replacement unit is built and offered to them. Based on a detailed legal analysis from the City Attorney, I am confident that the Development Agreement that the city negotiated to protect rent control is far stronger than the one for the Trinity project.

The changes that I proposed to the Development Agreement and approved by the Board provide increased support and protections for tenants. Tenants will now receive a lifetime lease when they move into their new rent controlled unit. We also made the phasing of the project better for tenants by reserving several blocks of town homes where many longtime tenants can live until the very last phase of construction, which is decades away. Tenants will also be further compensated for any moving costs or losses due to the construction.

Most importantly, my amendments added a crucial remedy if any owner tries to challenge the rent control protections even decades from now. In the small chance that happens, the owner would have to pay the difference between the value of the units with and without rent control, plus 20 percent. This fund would be used to make sure tenants’ current rent-control levels are protected. The amount of this remedy is now close to $200 million – an enormous disincentive for any Parkmerced owner to challenge rent control.

Since my vote for the Parkmerced project, I have received numerous letters from tenants in support of the project. These residents are young adults and seniors, new tenants and those who have lived at Parkmerced for decades. They all express enthusiasm for the prospect of a more livable community at Parkmerced that this project provides. They understand the consequences of not proceeding with the project: in the short run, tenants would pay more in rent because of sharply increased pass-throughs for deferred maintenance; in the long run, as prior Parkmerced owners have done, future owners would likely need to sell off pieces of the original site to finance new improvements, but not be able to provide the housing, transit, open space and community benefits of the current project.

I fully recognize that change is never easy, but Parkmerced strikes the right balance between protecting existing tenants while providing a tremendous opportunity to add much-needed housing and community improvements to the west side of the city. I welcome further dialogue with tenant leaders, Parkmerced residents and all San Franciscans on how to best support tenants moving forward.

Sincerely,

David Chiu
President, Board of Supervisors


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