Campos Blocks New Housing at 1515 South Van Ness

Proposed mixed income housing site at 1515 South Van Ness, as seen on Nov. 16, 2016

Proposed mixed-income housing site at 1515 South Van Ness, as seen on Nov. 16, 2016

In one of his final moves before departing the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, a petulant David Campos sided with Mission District NIMBYs to block the construction of 157 new units of mixed-income housing at 1515 South Van Ness, on the corner of 26th Street.

As previously covered by Bernalwood, the proposed housing at 1515 South Van Ness would occupy the site of the former McMillan Electric (and Lesher-Muirhead Oldsmobile). Developed by Lennar Corporation, 1515 South Van Ness would be built with union labor, and it would include 39 units of subsidized-affordable housing, or 25% of the total units in the development.

J.K. Dineen from the San Francisco Chronicle describes what happened:

In a move that shocked city officials and housing advocates, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday rejected a 157-unit Mission District development, claiming that city planners failed to take into account the impact the complex would have on displacement and gentrification in a district that has been the heart of the city’s working-class Latino community.

The board unanimously upheld a challenge to the environmental review of 1515 S. Van Ness Ave., sending it back to city planners for further study. While the decision sent tremors through the city’s housing development community, it was uncertain whether the move signaled that future development proposals would be scrutinized for their impacts on gentrification and the displacement of residents and businesses from a neighborhood.

“It’s not clear whether this is precedent-setting — I just don’t know,” said Planning Director John Rahaim. “I presume it’s something the city attorney will look at.”

Under the state’s convoluted California Environmental Quality Act, proposed developments require a painstaking analysis of everything from noise to air quality to traffic to historical and biological resources. Until now, however, efforts by antigentrification advocates to argue that displacement is a environmental impact have gone nowhere.

The vote was particularly surprising because Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission District, had previously backed the project, which won unanimous approval at the Planning Commission.

He had helped negotiate a deal under which the developer, Lennar Multifamily Communities, agreed to rent 39 of the 157 planned units to low- and middle-income families. That agreement marked the first time a developer had voluntarily agreed to make 25 percent of units affordable without receiving any benefits in return, like increased height or density.

Campos said Wednesday that he likes a lot about the project, which calls for the redevelopment of a site previously occupied by McMillan Electric, but that he has been increasingly worried of the impact that large market-rate development will have on the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, which was formed in 2014 to preserve the neighborhood’s Latino heritage and community.

“The difference with 1515 S. Van Ness is it is taking place within the Latino Cultural District,” he said. “Does that change the analysis? Should that require additional study? That’s what flipped me on it.”

Campos also said he was upset by some of the rhetoric of those fighting the environmental review appeal, including members of the pro-growth group San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation, known as SFBARF. At the hearing, SFBARF founder Sonja Trauss compared the antidevelopment activists to President-elect Donald Trump.

“When you come here to the Board of Supervisors and say that you don’t want new, different people in your neighborhood, you’re exactly the same as Americans all over the country that don’t want immigrants,” she said. “It’s the same attitude, it’s the exact same attitude.”

Campos called the comparison “offensive, divisive and clueless.”

“That really turned off my colleagues,” he said. “It tells me some of these people behind the project don’t care about the neighborhood.”

It’s rare for an appeal of an environmental study to be upheld, and Tim Colen, executive director of Housing Action Coalition, said he never dreamed it would happen in this case. He said it was only the third time in a decade that such an appeal had been upheld in San Francisco.

“It’s shocking,” said Colen. “Here you have the first market-rate project come along that voluntarily agreed to do 25 percent affordable housing. Turning down that many affordable housing units is not going to help displacement in the Mission.”

For what it’s worth, here is a  complete transcript of the comments from SFBARF’s Sonja Trauss that upset Supervisor Campos:

Earlier, a commenter said, “You’re bringing a stranger into our neighborhood,” as if it was self-evident that that was bad.

As if everyone here could obviously see that that’s bad.

And that disturbed me a lot. I’ve actually always been disturbed by nativism in San Francisco. In San Francisco of all places, we should not take for granted that bringing strangers into our neighborhood is gonna be a bad thing. The opponents of this project seem to know a lot about who’s gonna live there, which I think is mysterious. I don’t know how they would know that.

The Mission Moratorium report that the controller’s office prepared last year said that in new buildings, 84% of residents are people that already lived in San Francisco, so the idea that– If this building was filled with newcomers, first of all, so what, right? In Trump’s America we’re already disturbed by nativism everywhere. We don’t like it. And when you come here to the Board of Supervisors and say that you don’t want new, different people in your neighborhood, you’re exactly the same as Americans all over the country that don’t want immigrants. It is the same attitude. It is the exact same attitude.

So basically, you can be the kind of person that’s ready to have new people come into your neighborhood or you can be the kind of person that wants to keep people different than you out of your neighborhood. I know what kind of person I am: I want to build more housing, I want more people to be able to live here, and I want a wide diversity of people to be able to live here. And I’m not going to pretend to know who’s going to live in that building. Thanks.

For those who need a refresher, here’s a rendering of what the proposed housing at 1515 South Van Ness would look like:


Under the proposal, 1515 South Van Ness would be a 6-story complex with 81 onsite parking spaces that conforms with current zoning requirements for its location. 1515 South Van Ness would be located on an adjacent lot just north of 1296 Shotwell, the nine-story, 100% subsidized affordable housing development that that would replace an existing automotive repair (PDR) space, as shown:

1515svnsitemap21296 Shotwell is 20 feet taller than current zoning allows, so an initial hearing at the Planning Department will be held on December 1 to consider granting 1296 Shotwell a required variance.

59 thoughts on “Campos Blocks New Housing at 1515 South Van Ness

  1. According to the article, the vote was unanimous. Campos’ decision to reject it because someone hurt his fee-fees is stupid, but what about the other supervisors? What’s going on here? Was everybody so offended that they unanimously killed the project? Or was there some back room thing going on here?

    • Yes, the back room deal involved Calle 24 Latino Cultural District and the reactionary impact of the Trump election by the BOS. I attended the meeting. I never have witnessed such an emotional and at times hateful comments by opponents to the project. I heard nothing directly related to the Lennar project. It appeared that speakers chose to use Lennar as a scapegoat for all the perceived wrongs of the Trump election.

  2. I do not see what is so wrong about including the effects of gentrification in any impact statement about a sizable project like this. The study may point to potential adverse effects or may find no negative impact. You or I may disagree with the findings, but at least there will be data to frame the argument. I could go into my reaction to the BARF (a perfectly accurate acronym IMHO) speaker. They represent the interests of landlords and developers. But why not wait for the study results.

    • I’d be curious in knowing those effects as well. I imagine *any* development would have such effects, including 100% affordable developments, so the city would have to figure out where our acceptable line is. I’d similarly be interested in the effects of *not* building the project has on gentrification of the neighborhood (e.g. purchases by wealthier buyers of existing neighborhood housing stock instead of purchasing new housing stock).

      That said, what irks me about this is the manner the BoS conducted themselves to reach this outcome. Campos is reported by the Chronicle to have highlighted a gentrification study as required because the project exists in the Calle 24 cultural district. That district has existed (and created by) Campos in 2014, and Campos has been aware of and directly involved the 1515 Van Ness project. If he’s making an argument that the CEQA report requires gentrification as environmental impact, then he or the Calle 24 district leaders should have made that clear & known two years ago. Did they make that requirement known then? If not, then it does not seem correct to throw that grenade on the project now after years of dragging out this mixed-income housing from being built.

      If he’s throwing this out now because the city/district has no legal right to force a gentrification study as part of the state-defined CEQA process, then he should have instead recognized that the appeal is invalid due to this. He would then be well within his right to yell from the rooftops that it is a shame the laws in his view are insufficient in this area. He could then work hard with state officials to represent some SF constituents’ view regarding gentrification as impact on the environment and propose the state amend CEQA accordingly. I’d respect those responsible legislative actions regardless of whether I agreed with the outcome. I don’t respect a backdoor moratorium because he was unable to achieve it previously through legislative means (Prop I, 2015).

      • Your assessment of CEQA and the impact of gentrification is spot on. Campos has created a legal quagmire that the City Attorney will have a difficult time to defend, if challenged. No development – 100% affordable, mixed use or market rate will pass the gentrification litmus test.

    • Although I am not a fan of his, this post is a cheap shot at Campos. Even the picture of the lot with the tent is pulling strings. It appears Bernalwood has a personal vendetta against the lame duck Supervisor. Too many of the concrete residential boxes are going up in The City. Hayes Valley is an example.

      • I disagree with your assessment of Campos performance over the past 8 years. He has a dismal record of accomplishments. He has a record of not responding to his constituents concerns – homelessness, crime, dirt and gritty streets and failure to support local businesses. Please give me some examples of Campos achievements?

    • I respectively disagree with your comment regarding gentrification in the context of the Lennar project. The project displaces no one and creates 157 new housing units of which 56 will be affordable and 6 low rent artist spaces. At the present time, homeless tent encampments now surround the project. These folks need housing, not another 6 months of studies to attempt to measure the effects of gentrification.

  3. Campos is a horrible supervisor. Just because SFBARF made comments you don’t like isn’t a reason to block a project. This sort of nonsensical action is a core reason why housing is so expensive in SF. A developer has no idea whether a project will get derailed because a petty politician throws a hissy fit.

    Good riddance. Let’s see how Rosen holds to her campaign promise of 5,000 new units in the mission. She’ll never get there if she acts like her petty, childish old boss, campos.

  4. Why not wait? Because laws and regulations should be clear rather than subject to the whims of officials. Presumably you wouldn’t be okay with traffic laws that were subject to the judgment of the officer on a given day. You would want to know what the rules are and be confident that if you were following them you would be free to go about your business.

    We already have fairly restrictive development guidelines in San Francisco (maybe that’s good, maybe not), but we also impose random hurdles and costs by making it impossible for a project sponsor to look at the building codes, design a compliant building, and have an expectation of approval. This only raises the cost of building here, and those costs will be passed on.

    The rules of the game should be clear to all at the outset.

    • Yes, you are correct. Lennar played by the rules – met the zoning requirements and EIR – environmental impact review, 25% affordable, 13% was required, 100% union workers, and best of all refused to cave in to certain nonprofit organization demands for payoffs, bribes, hush money, in other words – extortion payments to simply “go away”. Hurray for Lennar!

  5. Sonja’s statements were pretty accurate and that is what probably really pissed off Campos. He knows exactly what he is doing being a protectionist. This project only helps the housing crisis on all levels – 25% affordable!! He is a BIG part of the problem. I have no reason to believe Hillary will be any different.

    • Sonja’s comments were spot on. Calle24 Latino Cultural District is to blame for the gentrification scam.

  6. How the heck does creating more housing in this site cause displacement of current Mission residents??? It is an empty building now which used to be a business before. This is the kind of bullshit move by Campos and the BOS. God! I can’t wait for Campos’s term to end. He is such an idiot.

    • Yes, the Campos appeal will impact the senior housing proposed at 1296 Shotwell St. I can assure you of this outcome. 1296 Shotwell will not comply with the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) that is referenced in CEQUA and repudiated by Campos.

      • It sounded like Campos voted the way he did because he didn’t like the way the property builders were referencing Trump. It’s probably too early to say if he will oppose the other project considering his objection to this project was based on his annoyance level.

  7. Not really understanding how a housing development for low-income seniors on a site with no existing housing is causing gentrification and displacement.

    If anyone can explain, please do.

    Also, I second what Brandon says above, it’s hard to put a housing plan together when the rules constantly shift and the whim of some supervisor(s) can put the kibosh on things.

    • The unintended consequence of Campos action is to put all new projects at risk, including 100% affordable units. Lennar is building new housing – mixed use. There is no displacement of anyone at this site. The Lennar project started in 2014 and Campos move to delay it with the need for more studies places this project in jeopardy. Why would any private sector housing developer build in the Mission under these circumstances?

  8. I don’t understand why this post and some of commenters are blaming Campos for “blocking” the project at 1515 South Van Ness. Nine supervisors voted unanimously to require a new EIR since the current one is 8 years old. Your characterization of what transpired is very distorted!

      • Bernalwood has no beef with Campos. It is the residents of the Mission that recognize Campos failures and ineffectiveness that were toxic to the community over the past 8 years.

    • Lennar started this project in 2014, under the the EIR that was completed as part of the SE Mission Plan of 2006. The planning dept does an environmental review (ER) to determine that new housing project complies with the EIR. The Planning Commission approved Lennar project by a vote of 6 – 0. To require a new EIR will cost $10,000’s and result in months/years to prepare. Does the Planning Dept halt all new developments in the pipline until a new EIR is completed? How will this solve the housing crisis in the Mission? Nine supervisors were wrong in this instance. Trump election hysteria and fear were a big factor in this vote. I was there and witnessed this travesty.

      • I’m surprised Bernalwood doesn’t have a bot to prevent someone overloading the comment’s section with one view. This is supposed to be a neighborhood blog, not a hatefest like SFGate.

    • I think the other supervisors voted with Campos as it’s his district. If he had rejected the appeal, they probably would have voted unanimously with him. I’m not positive, but think that most supervisors let the project’s district supervisor decide on votes like this so they don’t step on toes. Maybe if Scott Wiener had been there he would have been the lone dissenter.

      • I was present at the hearing last week, together with about 10 SFPD officers who were present inside the chambers to keep order at this public meeting. The professional agitators were loud, abusive and on a few occasions disrupted the proceedings. The meeting was tense and filled with the hysteria and fear that was present at many demonstrations around the city in the aftermath of the Trump election. Campos swan song played to the the emotions of the fearful and thus won the minds and hearts of his colleagues on the Board of Sup. Too Bad for housing advocates and Lennar. The rejection of the EIR (Environmental Impact Review) for additional studies on the impact of displacement and gentrification will result in a moratorium of all large housing developments in the Mission – market rate and affordable housing.

        Join me in opposing the 9 story “Monolithic Slab”, with 100% affordable units and no parking for the estimated 150 occupants. The project will be built on Shotwell St at Cesar Chavez. MEDA (Mission Economic Development Association) will go before the Planning Commission on Dec 1st to seek approval. I would hope that our neighbors on Bernal will join us in the Inner Mission to oppose this environmental threat to our health and safety.

  9. Obviously Campos did not block the project single-handedly. But the blog is Bernalwood and he’s our supervisor, so his position is particularly relevant for this audience. It’s also noteworthy since he was involved in negotiating the current program of the project.

    Ad hominem attacks don’t serve anyone here. Let your argument stand or fall on its own merits.

    • No Campos did not block this project single-handedly. We need a more moderate Board of Supervisors. Campos, Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin and the rest of the “ultra” progressive members need to be voted out.

    • It’s not the 100% affordable senior housing project that is being put on hold — it’s the 75% UN-AFFORDABLE apartment project that needs to be evaluated in terms of how it affects displacement. Bringing wealthy people into the neighborhood will change things — we see that in Bernal already.

      This is the opposite of what the people are concerned about in Forest Hill. There the current residents are worried about “drug addicts and mentally ill” people moving into the area. Here we are worried about wealthy people moving into the neighborhood; two very different issues.

      • Do we exclude wealthy people from the Mission? Who is worried about wealthy people? I welcome all new comers, including wealthy people. Are not some wealthy people “drug addicts and mentally ill”? I am sorry, I just don’t understand your reasoning?

    • I live on Shotwell St and do not oppose low-income senior housing. I do oppose a 9 story “Monolithic Slab” with no parking for the estimated 150 residents who will reside there. I have serious concerns for the environmental impact this structure will have on all my neighbors both Bernal and the inner Mission neighbors.
      Join me in opposing the 9 story “Monolithic Slab”, with 100% affordable units and no parking for the estimated 150 occupants. The project will be built on Shotwell St at Cesar Chavez. MEDA (Mission Economic Development Association) will go before the Planning Commission on Dec 1st to seek approval. I would hope that our neighbors on Bernal will join us in the Inner Mission to oppose this environmental threat to our health and safety.

  10. A unanimous Board of Supervisors decided that this project needed further environmental review. That is what actually happened. Making the decision so personal to an individual seems transparently inaccurate. A lot of factors go into a governmental decision that involves such a huge financial investment by a single developer.

    A lot of people, including me, appreciate the work that goes into this blog, and the comments. It would be wonderful if everyone could take the occasion of this recent election to reflect, to step back from making political issues so intensely personal, and to just focus on the actual substance of disagreements, expressed in a thoughtful way. That is how we find common ground among neighbors, in my view.

  11. The decision of the BOS to reject the proposed mixed/inclusionary housing project at 1515 South Van Ness (McMillan Electric site) was wrong and established a bad precedent for any new housing in the Mission. I attended the BOS meeting and listened to the comments/observations by both Calle24 proponents and those who supported the Lennar project.
    I am a resident on Shotwell, across the street from 1515 and support the project together with about 20 neighbors who live in the immediate vicinity. Lennar started the project in July, 2014.Of the 157 units, 25% or 56 units will be affordable. Lennar voluntarily complied with the 25% affordable units as adopted by voters under Proposition C that was passed several months ago. 1515 is the FIRST, and only project to comply with Prop C. Lennar was only required to provide 13% affordable units under the grandfather provision of Prop C. Lennar removed 8 dwelling units from the original plans to accomodate 6 trade shop spaces for local artists and artisans. These units will be rented at below market rents. The rents will be $2 per square feet, which is 50% below market. This commitment will be recorded against the property.
    At the BOS meeting, Mr. McMillan stated that his company has successfully relocated less than 1 mile from the project site and has been able to grow the business and hire 25+ new employees as a result of selling the property to Lennar.
    Lennar will be the only developer in the Mission to employ 100% union labor. Several union officials from the construction trades (electrical, plumbing and carpentry) reported to the BOS that many new jobs would be created for Mission youth and unemployed. As a result of the BOS decision, these new jobs will not be created.
    After about 2 years in the planning phase, on August 11, 2016 the Planning Commission unanimously approved 1515 by a vote of 6 – 0. My neighbors and I attended this meeting and expressed our support for the 1515 project over the objections of the opposition, which consisted mainly of Calle 24 members.

    The Appeal of the CEQA (Calif Environmental Quality Act) document only was filed on Sept 24, 2016 with the BOS. The appelants (Calle 24) were not able to get the required signatures of the neighbors or the BOS to appeal the Conditional Use authorization. The appeal relates only to CEQA, not to the Project. The City prepared a CEQA document that complies with the legal requirements as noted by City staff in response to the appeal. At the BOS hearing the Director of the Planning Dept responded to several inquiries by Sup Campos regarding the compliance of the 1515 project to the Environmental Impact Report referenced in the SE Mission Plan document approved by the Planning Dept in 2006. The Director of Planning responded that the same argument presented by Calle 24 against Lennar had been raised in other Mission projects, including the Bryant St project and it was determined that all projects were in compliance. There was no basis for the CEQA appeal and the Planning Commission approval should have been upheld.
    However, Campos amended the Appeal of Determination to take into account the impact the project would have on displacement and gentrification in the so-called Calle24 Latino Cultural District. The BOS voted in favor of Campos amendment and set into motion a disturbing precedent that will have detrimental impact on all projects in the pipeline and future new housing developments in the Mission. This action by Campos and the BOS was a reaction to the Trump election, which has created an environment of fear and concern among many San Franciscans, particularly the undocumented immigrants in the Mission. Calle24 has exploited this fear to further its political agenda to exclude and discriminate against those individuals who are perceived as contributing to gentrification in the Mission – the white, professional, educated tech workers who have contributed to the revitalization of the Mission and who patronize the many small businesses that employ hundreds of lower income workers in this Latino Cultural District.

    • Wow, you could have said all of that in one post. Also, the part at the end is some classic white saviourism. No wonder Calle 24 doesn’t want to deal with you people.

      • “classic white saviorism” Is this a “new age” term for a heavy metal rock band? I am not white and I am not a member of SFBARF. However, you can sprinkle some holy water on me and fill my space with incense. I will then go forth and spread the good word. Have a good day.

    • Hi Chris,
      I would be happy to give Todd, the moderator, my permission to forward my email address to you. Until then, please:

      Join me in opposing the 9 story “Monolithic Slab”, with 100% affordable units and no parking for the estimated 150 occupants. The project will be built on Shotwell St at Cesar Chavez. MEDA (Mission Economic Development Association) will go before the Planning Commission on Dec 1st to seek approval. I would hope that our neighbors on Bernal will join us in the Inner Mission to oppose this environmental threat to our health and safety.

  12. Definitely a stupid move on the part of the SF Supervisors. The project had been approved to go forward. Of course, Of course, Mayor Lee can veto the BOS decision; and, Lennar can file a lawsuit. Not because of Campos or the insipid Calle 24 Latino Cultural District have improvements been made in District 9. They think it is normal to live in trash, crime, and are pretty much useless in getting anything done to make the area a good, safe neighborhood. Just take a look at Mission and 16th Streets. This is the so-called ‘culture’ of the Mission. It’s a garbage dump. District 9 has improved due to home/property/business owners making upgrades to their property, in some cases converting chopped up buildings back into flats, single family home; as well as the wonderful new main stream businesses that have moved into the district.

    • Really? I disagree with Campos almost 100 percent of the time on development in the Mission, but this is beyond the pale. “They think it is normal to live in trash, crime, and are pretty much useless in getting anything done to make the area a good, safe neighborhood.” No, they don’t think this at all. They just disagree about how best to get from here to there.

  13. I am very sorry to hear about this result. The Mayor should definitely veto this impulsive decision by the board, if that’s the next step in the process. This is a very thoughtful and balanced project in terms of affordability levels and we need the housing!

  14. David Campos admits he is a man who cannot be trusted, reneging on his word, indeed his prolonged involvement, in support of this project which displaces no one. How long did he hold the developer up in the first place, angling for the increased low income ratio, which was ultimately conceded? Then he changes his mind? Making himself into an admitted liar, in his words “flipped” ?

    Forget about the other supervisors votes. I’m talking about one man’s leadership and one man’s position.

    Disgusting. Good riddance.

    • Thank you Kenny for your comments regarding Campos duplicity and dishonesty. The fight for 1515 is not over. The fight to force MEDA to the deal with the Inner Mission Neighbors and Bernal Neighbors in good faith regarding 1296 Shotwell (the 9 story Monolithic Slab that was recently approved by the Planning Commission), is not over. Stay tuned there will be more surprising news to follow regarding both projects. For now, please organize, organize and organize your friends and neighbors to advocate for mixed use housing in the Mission (affordable with market rate units).
      We are seeing a very disturbing housing trend in the Mission. The construction of 9 story, 100% affordable housing projects. See today’s Mission Local article on the proposed sites of these projects. Some neighbors can remember the violence and crime that was a regular occurance at the Bernal towers (two 9 story buildings) on Folsom at Cesar Chavez. HUD raised the towers and built small town homes for the former residents of the towers. Today, Bernal Dwellings is a good example of how affordable housing should be planned and built in an urban setting like the Mission. If you would like more information on 1515 South Van Ness (McMillian Electric location) and 1296 Shotwell St, please send me your contact information at:
      Best regards,

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