Notes from Last Night’s Northeast Bernal Community Meeting

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Here are my notes from last night’s full-house community meeting about crime problems in northeast Bernal, held at the Precita Center:

Community Meeting on Crime and Public Safety
Organized by the Northeast Bernal Neighbors Association (NBNA)
January 21, 2016

Speakers:

  • Terry Milne – Northeast Bernal Neigbors Alliance
  • Capt. Joseph McFadden, Captain, SFPD Ingleside Station
  • Jason Elliott, deputy chief of staff to Mayor Ed Lee

Bernal Neighbor Terry Milne kicked off the meeting by explaining that NBNA was formed to solve some of the crime problems that aren’t being addressed by city officials. The goal of NBNA is to increase political representation in this part of Bernal, to provide a cohesive message in City Hall, and to make sure neighbors in northeast Bernal get their issues addressed. Want to get involved? Join the network.

NBNA thanked Joshua Arce for helping to organize the meeting.

D9 Supervisor David Campos was present, along with his aide, Hilary Ronen.

Comments from Capt. McFadden

Ingleside 2d biggest geographical district in SF

Why does crime happen in NE Bernal?

  • Lots of criminals come here from out of town
  • Gang activity
  • Easy freeway access

Northeast Bernal has coverage from a radio car, as well as some coverage from undercover units.

McFadden showed a map of burglaries (homes robbed) that illustrated a strong cluster of crime in the far northwest corner of Bernal, right around the Peralta/Holladay corner.

McFadden noted that it is hard to secure a felony conviction for a car break in. To do that, prosecutors in San Francisco require a witness who saw

  1. someone break a window
  2. the person take something
  3. the person left the scene.

Missing any one of those and the crime is likely just a misdemeanor. The San Francisco district attorney (who is independently elected) does not make it easy to secure prosecutions.

Recent example: Ingleside recently arrested 3 recidivists who are responsible for at least a dozen car break-ins. They will likely get misdemeanors or probation.

Obvious reminder that nevertheless bears repeating: Don’t leave anything in your car. “Not leaving anything in your car” means don’t leave anything at all in your car. Period. Remove your phone charger and charging cable when you park, because they signal to a criminal that they should break into the car to see if there’s a phone is there. Smartphones can fetch $100 or more, and are easily fenced.

Video evidence is a godsend: Video recordings are hugely helpful, both for catching criminals and facilitating prosecution. “Gigantic,” McFadden says. Security cameras are a great investment, and the SFPD has very good systems for managing and distributing video footage to officers on the beat. (NOTE: If you have an exterior-facing camera, you can register it with the SF district attorney’s office here so they can collect more evidence after crimes take place.)

McFadden showed a recent home security camera video of an auto break-in on Coleridge Bocana in Bernal Heights. The perp began by casing a few cars on the street. Then he began shining a flashlight into a few car windows. (NOTE: That demonstrates clear intent to commit a crime, and thus would warrant a 911/urgent call to SFPD) Then he called his friend in a getaway car, who showed up in moments. Then he smashed a window, grabbed something from the car, and drove off with his friend. Total elapsed time: About 2 minutes.

Reminder: Don’t call 911 from you cell phone, because mobile 911 calls go to CHP dispatch, far, far away. Add these numbers to your mobile phone address book:

  • SFPD emergency landline (for crimes in progress): (415) 553-8090
  • SFPD non-emergency: (415) 553-0123
  • SFPD Ingleside station number: (415) 404-4000

SFPD dispatch pro tips Part 1: If you’re not getting the help you need from an SFPD dispatcher, call back and try a different dispatcher. If you’re still not getting enough help, demand to speak to a supervisor. Or the supervisor’s supervisor. Still not getting a response? Call Ingleside station, and ask to speak to the platoon commander. Don’t cry wolf, but do act VERY persistent.

SFPD dispatch pro tips Part 2: When you report suspicious activity or a crime in progress, try to provide some specific details that make it easier to identify the subject. Don’t say “4 door white car,” say “4 door white car with a spoiler on the rear deck and small round taillights.” Or, “he was wearing a shirt with a Nike swoosh.” Ignore jackets and hoodies; those are easily shed. Look for details about pieces of clothing that are hard to remove: Pants, shoes, base-layer shirts, etc.

In response to a question about SFPD jurisdictional issues, McFadden said that Mission Station and Ingleside will soon (do already?) share a radio channel. Previously, Mission and Ingleside used separate frequencies. Being on the same channel will help improve coordination.

Jason Elliot – Mayor’s deputy chief of staff

Big Picture: Violent crime is down, property crime is up

Thanks to Prop 47, big policy questions are being asked.

More police officers will help with quality lot life crimes. Plan in place and funded to get SFPD up to 2000 officers, or the full complement as determined by a study that was conducted in 1970 (That’s not a typo. There was much eye-rolling over this.) SFPD should hit 2000 officers next year, and that will mean more officers in radio cars to focus on property crime.

The Mayor’s office hopes to pilot some new approaches, perhaps in Bernal Heights:

  • Received for a grant to assist with vehicle crime abatement
  • Gang task force grant
  • One potential program might make it possible to increase police presence at times when data shows peak crime activity

Hopefully there will be more detail on this, TBD.

Also:

Ailed Quijano Paningbatan-Swan from the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center added some helpful comments.

Good lighting reduces crime. BHNC helped instal lighting around Holly Park, and it helped.

She encouraged NE Bernal neighbors to organize Hotspot walks, in which neighbors go for neighborhood walks with SFPD and city officials to highlight areas of concern. That helps build community while also making city departments and leaders accountable for making improvements. Contact Ailed at BHNC for details.

Other Ideas:
Neighbors expressed interest in closing the steep stairway from the 101 interchange up to Peralta and Holladay. Also want to close the overpass across Bayshore. The City officials present did not provide clear guidance if this was even possible.

Many neighbors (and Ailed from BHNC) emphasized this key idea:

GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS!! Communities are stronger when people have face to face relationships. Say hello. Exchange phone numbers. There is a common perception that some new Bernal neighbors keep to themselves. (Editorial Note :This may be true, or it may be bullshit, and/or the demonization of new residents by the Old Guard certainly doesn’t do much to encourage community participation, but nevertheless: If you’re new here, take the time to say hello. It’s a gesture that matters.)

One final comments came from a Bernal neighbor who grew up in Bernal. A former gang member, he settled down once he started a family. He said: “If you don’t know your neighbors, they won’t look out for you.”

Reminder: If you want to participate in the Northeast Bernal Neighbors Alliance, sign up here.

There will be another community meeting about public safety next Thursday, Jan 28 at 6 pm at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.  Look for additional details on that soon.

PHOTO: Northeast Bernal Community Meeting, photo by @ywxwy

Alex Nieto’s Family and Friends March from Bernal Hill to Bayview

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Just after sunset last night, family and activists rallying on behalf of Alex Nieto, the Bernal neighbor who was killed in a 2014 officer-involved shooting, organized a march that took them from the site on Bernal Hill where Nieto was killed to the Bayview District. Once in Bayview, the Nieto group joined with the family of Mario Woods, who was killed in an officer-involved shooting in December 2015.

KTVU covered the event:

The parents and friends of 28-year-old Alex Nieto paid tribute at the spot where he was shot by police almost two years ago.

“Right now, we just have to show unity and strength in numbers and just ask for the community to come out and support us– the family, but not just the family. Today it’s our family. Tomorrow it might be yours,” said Maria, a cousin of Nieto’s.

His parents led supporters on the march to the Bayview to join the family of Mario Woods, the 26-year-old shot and killed by police last month.

At 3rd and Palou streets, dozens attended a rally for Woods before marching to the police station where both groups converged and officers stood guard.

Woods’ mother, Gwendolyn, was emotional as she confronted officers. Tensions eased as supporters formed a circle.

The mothers of Woods and Nieto came together for a symbolic ritual. They joined hands, shared hot chocolate and broke bread.

The trial in the Nieto family’s wrongful death lawsuit against the City of San Francisco is set to begin on March 1.  The full text of the Medical Examiner’s report about Alex Nieto’s death is available here.

PHOTOS: Top, Alex Nieto memorial on Bernal Hill, January 6, 2015, by Causa Just Just CauseBelow, Gwendolyn Woods, mother of Mario Woods, with Elvira and Refugio Nieto, parents of Bernal neighbor Alex Nieto, by @justice4alex.

City Outsources Lundys Landing Tree Problem to Irate Bernal Neighbor

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This year, San Francisco’s Department of Public Works has been pursuing a euphemistically-named Tree Maintenance Transfer Plan that makes San Francisco homeowners responsible for tens of thousands of streetside trees that were, until recently, maintained by the city.

DPW says the crux of the plan is to “standardize maintenance responsibility such that, in general, fronting property owners will be responsible for the maintenance of street trees in the public right of way.” In plainspeak, DPW is basically outsourcing its tree problem to taxpayers, under force of law.

That’s how Neighbor Laura Gold of Lundys Lane, a schoolteacher at Buena Vista Horace Mann, ended up getting hit with a massive tree-maintenance bill recently.  Neighbor Laura tells Bernalwood:

We are fighting the city’s unfair assignment of tree care to the neighbors on Lundy’s Landing.

We all want a green city with an appropriate canopy. That is one of the many reasons we promptly pay our city taxes and support new ones when they are designed to beautify or improve our city. However, this shifting of responsibilities to citizens puts an unfair burden on already strained wallets. It also makes public spaces unsafe as homeowners scrape to come up with piecemeal solutions for city streets, easements and open spaces. Our budget is already strained by having to pay for the costs of replacing the sidewalk in front of our house and by caring for the street tree near our front door. We, in no way, can afford to take on the city’s responsibility nor its liability for a large shared public area that falls between our house and several of our neighbors.

I am a public school teacher in the Mission. I work 10-12 hour days. I make less than $3800 a month; my husband and I have put thousands of dollars of our own money and countless hours of our free time into providing materials (books, school supplies, snacks) for my classroom, since despite the fact that I work with kids whose families lack the basics to survive in this city, San Francisco has decided that it doesn’t want to take responsibility for them.

Now, it seems like city government has also abdicated its responsibility to the homeowners. A year ago, it was reported that due to high tax revenues, San Francisco was running a budget surplus of $22 million dollars — where is the money in this city going? It’s not helping the kids, and it’s not providing basic services to homeowners that other cities take for granted. Is it to further subsidize Google buses at the expense of the neighborhoods? I don’t teach math, but I know when things don’t add up.

Here is what my husband and I have done so far:

1) We have emailed and called Director Mohammed Nuru of DPW and requested a meeting and had no reply or return of our calls. Instead we have received yet another computer generated letter saying the trees are our problem. (see email below and feel free to quote as needed),

2) We have also contacted Supervisor Campos’s office, and while we have had responses, we have no evidence that anything is in the works, and the clock is ticking. (we were informed in a letter dated 10/30 we had 30 days to deal with the issue), and finally we have contacted people at the SF Chronicle, and are hoping they, too, can raise awareness about the issue.

Apparently both Supervisors Avalos and Weiner are taking up the cause,  The issue may end up on the ballot next year.

At what point does city government stop existing to benefit the citizens, and instead exist to provide a steady source of income for a few powerful people? What does that make the rest of us who thought we were participating in the San Francisco community, not working for San Francisco, Inc.?

This is the letter I sent to Director Nuru:

From: lauragold
To: “Mohammed Nuru”
Cc: “David Campos”
Sent: Sunday, November 8, 2015 2:14:40 PM
Subject: Trees on Lundy’s Landing Public Space

Dear Director Nuru –

I am writing to request an immediate meeting with you at Lundy’s Landing (DPW property at Lundy’s Lane and Esmeralda) with regard to our ongoing request for the city to maintain its trees on its land, and the patently false posting of signs designating that the owners have “requested to remove” the trees in 30 days from city land.

As I have indicated in my 311 request, we are asking the City of San Francisco to honor their responsibilities. As I indicated in my 311 response:

1) This is not our property. It is the City of San Francisco’s property. It is listed as a street and therefore the City of San Francisco’s obligation.
2) We did not plant these trees, put in stairs, etc. It belongs to the city.
3) We pay taxes for the care of public space. This is public space and therefore not our responsibility as homeowners.
4) Finally, and perhaps most insultingly, the city is asking us to request and pay for a permit to do work on THEIR land. We do not plan to request this permit.

I am also a city employee. A public school teacher that can barely afford to live here and pay taxes. I cannot afford to take on the city’s multi thousand dollar obligation.

I look forward to hearing from your office in the next 48 hours in order to arrange a meeting.

Yours,

Laura Belfiglio Gold
Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8
Teacher, 7th grade, National Board Certified Teacher

PHOTO: The tree assigned to Neighbor Laura, by Neighbor Laura

Restored Esmeralda Slide Park Wins Fabulous San Francisco Beautiful Award

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Remember just a few short months ago, when the historic and symbolic Esmeralda Slide Park was a sad ruin?

Blighted by the decaying forces of time, The City had to remove some of the wooden structures before they collapsed. Then came the rallying cry, and the heroic volunteer effort, and then the mini-park was restored and reborn. And now it’s won an amazing beautification award from San Francisco Beautiful.

Neighbors Joan Carson and Nancy Windensheim worked their tail-feathers off to make this happen, and without them, none of this would have happened. Here’s what they had to say about the recognition:

For all you folks who were waiting for the results of who is the winner of the SF Beautiful Award…

Being a nominee was cool enough, but Esmeralda Slide Park just went on record as the 2015 recipient of the Seven Hills Award.  This Award “recognizes nominees who have made a significant contribution to the creation of unique neighborhood character.”

There were 7 award categories and a winner for each. It’s very fitting Esmeralda Slide Park got the Seven Hills Award. Everybody knows Bernal is the ‘hood with the kick-ass slide; Now folks see we not only have the great slide, we have a plaza and park that is also awesome. It’s going to get even better, so stay tuned for more!

Hurray for our fabulous community, and bravo to everyone who has worked and will continue to work on the Esmeralda Slide Park.

See you at Esmeralda!

We did it! Our slides are both ass-kicking and award-winning.  Kind of like Kanye West, but with a much better attitude.

Most of all, a lot of very special thanks are due to Neighbors Nancy and Joan, who lead the charge to reconstruct the Esmeralda mini-park and make it better than ever. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Very, very well done, ladies:

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PHOTOS: Courtesy of Neighbors Nancy and Joan

Esmeralda Slide Park, Now Beautifully Renovated, Nominated for SF Beautiful Award

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Neighbor Joan Carson, one of the valiant ringleaders who helped organize the glamtastic renovation of the Esmeralda Slides and Mini-Park, shares this update on the new sign over the park, and some (well-deserved) recognition it’s receiving around town:

There’s a new sign over the Esmeralda Slide Park, designed by Nancy Windesheim and constructed by me. The sign is prominently displayed on the trellis above our planter box, with the new plantings installed by volunteers on August 15, the second workday we had.

Most of all, we want to tell everyone who reads Bernalwood that we are one of the many esteemed nominees for a 2015 SFBeautification award.  San Francisco Beautiful is a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the livability and beautification of San Francisco. For 44 years, they have been recognizing people and places who contribute to the City’s livability and beautification.

The nominees are showcased on the SF Beautiful’s Facebook page. We’re there, and if you’re excited like we are, please “like” us.

Everyone who dedicated themselves to making this rebuild happen should feel very proud. There are a number of projects that happened this year in the City that are really special, and we can find ourselves amongst them.

Whether we win an award on Sept. 17 or not, the recognition of being a nominee in the company of all the other special projects nominated, puts us in the best of company!

Citizens of Bernalwood, you know what to do: Please help stuff the ballot box by adding your Likes and gushy comments right here.

PHOTO: Neighbor Joan

Bids Due, Tensions High as Trustee Says Precita Eyes Seeks to “Force Family to Sell to Them”

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It’s been a big week for 348 Precita Avenue, the multi-unit building on Precita Park that’s long been home to the Precita Eyes mural studio. 348 Precita is for sale, and Precita Eyes hopes to avoid possible eviction by deterring would-be buyers from bidding on the property. (For more backstory, read Bernalwood’s item about this from  Monday.)

Here at week’s end, let’s catch up on where thing stand.

Neighbor Ledia dropped by Precita Eyes during a Protest Art Class for kids on Tuesday, where she learned more about Precta Eyes, their history in Precita Park, their other property holdings, and their (at times confusing) arrangement with the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA). Neighbor Ledia tells Bernalwood:

Went to the free art class and talked to Precita Eyes today: Now I understand.

So Precita Eyes wants the owners [of 348 Precita] to accept MEDAs offer to buy the building, which has 3 residential units plus the commercial Precita Eyes space, for $1 million.

It’s obviously “worth” more. MEDA would then be the owner/landlord, with the possibly of current tenants being able to buy their spaces in some way.

348 is the original Precita Eyes space. Precita Eyes has been around since 1977, and in this space since 1982. In 1998, [Precita Eyes founder Susan Cervantes] bought the Precita Eyes space on 24th St., so the organization also has that.

The goal of the free art class/gathering is to discourage offers on the building, other than MEDA’s lowball offer.

This provides helpful context. Precita Eyes uses 348 Precita as a satellite facility, and in the comments to Monday’s post, several Bernal neighbors noted that the studio at 348 is rarely occupied. (As a neighbor, Bernalwood can confirm this.) The Precita Eyes branch at 2981 24th Street is the organization’s main office, but we did not know (and Mission Local confirms) that Precita Eyes actually owns the 24th Street building. That means the future of Precita Eyes on 24th Street is secure.

Of course, there are two sides to every transaction, and in the comments to Bernalwood’s Monday post, a member of the family that’s selling 348 Precita shared some details (which are merged here for clarity):

My name is Michael Silva. I am not the owner of 348 Precita (certainly not the only owner), but only the trustee of my late mom’s estate.

I am a member of the family that owns this property. Our presence in SF dates back to before the 1906 earthquake (they camped out in the park during the repairs). It has been in our family for a hundred years. Look up August &Minnie Schmidt in the 1915 online directory.

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1915 San Francisco Directory, via Bernalwood

One of the owners is the 83 year old granddaughter of August and Minnie. Another is a great-grandson who worked all his life in SF until he had to retire under medical disability, and who has had multiple surgeries to help the back injuries he suffered while working as a printer. His entire life savings consists of $11,000.

These are the owners to whom Precita Eyes is trying to dictate sale terms. This is the one and only commercial property the family owns, in SF or anywhere else. We are not “big investors” by any stretch of the imagination.

I am actually just the Trustee of my mom’s estate (born in SF in 1932). She and her twin sister co-owned the property until she passed away a few years ago. Now my mom’s estate, along with her twin sister, are trying to sell the property. And Precita Eyes is trying to make sure we do not receive fair market value for a property that has been in our family for at least 100 years.

What Precita Eyes is trying to do is to force the family to sell to them, on their terms and on their terms alone, and obviously below market value (or else they would just submit their bid along with any other potential buyers). Who thinks this is moral behavior on their part?

This sets up a curious dynamic. In a town where one’s standing on questions of housing policy and social entitlement often correlates to how long you’ve lived here, the story of 348 Precita now contrasts a nonprofit arts organization that’s been in Bernal for 30+ years with a multigenerational family that’s been in Bernal for 100.

Last Tuesday, there was a open house at at 348 Precita for potential buyers to view the property. Precita Eyes put signs in the windows, brought in some local kids for an ad hoc protest art class, invited a few journalists from around town to drop by, and launched their campaign to ward off potential bidders.

Sarah Hotchkiss from KQED Arts was there:

As toddlers covered in tempera paint plastered their hand prints all over sheets of paper, community members surrounded the building holding their own pieces of paper, printed with the message, “Please do not BUY this building!! This is a community space!”

PEWindow

Photo: KQED

The organization staged the protest after landlords posted a brand-new For Sale sign on the studio center’s exterior the week before. Though Precita Eyes owns its arts and visitors center at 2981 24th St, they have rented the 348 Precita Ave space since 1977.

While impending doom lingers in the air, the building’s residents are not without hope. The Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), with advice from the San Francisco Community Land Trust (SFCLT), plans to make a bid on the property, which, if successful, will safeguard Precita Eyes and the residential tenants against eviction by forming a cooperative.

The dispatch from Mission Local’s reporter captured the kabuki-like flavor of the scene, as the participants performed familiar roles:

“We’re hoping to dissuade other prospective buyers from outbidding MEDA,” explained Nancy Pili Hernández, a Precita Eyes muralist.

Several prospective buyers came and went without comment. Some stopped to talk with the activists and neighbors standing outside. In some cases, the exchanges became heated.  Pili Hernández said one potential buyer became incensed when a woman approached him asking his intentions for the building. Pili Hernández said the man told the woman he would put in an offer for $2 million and evict her.

That’s the kind of possibility that makes Randy Odell, an upstairs resident of 30 years, uneasy.

“It’s no fun having your home threatened.” Odell said. “When you have no right to keep people from coming in and looking at your home, and sussing out the value, it’s very hard to keep my dignity.”

Other potential buyers took a more diplomatic approach.

Micheal Zook, a San Francisco native and former building manager who was once evicted from a building he lived and worked in for 20 years, now works as a realtor but was considering the building as a potential home for himself, his wife and his children. He talked at length with community organizers about the property and how displacement could be avoided.

So what happens next?

Although the drama of 348 Precita is playing out in 2015, this story is really a flashback to the proto-gentrification tensions of 1970s Bernal Heights, when a young generation of activist Baby Boomers arrived and set out to transform Bernal in their own image, sometimes to the dismay of the older, blue-collar families who already lived here.

Back then, however, San Francisco’s population was in decline, and Bernal Heights was considered a faded part of town.  Homes were cheap,  rents were cheaper, Precita Park was rough, and Bernal was a funky bohemian backwater. Today, San Francisco’s population has grown by almost 200,000 since 1980, Bernal is a prime location, Precita Park is a four-star destination, countercultural lifestyles are difficult to afford, and the median home price in the neighborhood hovers around $1.4 million. A big property like 348 Precita could obviously fetch more.

But should it? Will it? We’ll find out soon; Mike Silva tells Bernalwood the last bids for the property are coming in today.

PHOTOS: Top, Precita Eyes studio by Telstar Logistics

Activists Rally as Precita Eyes Studio Building on Precita Park Is Listed For Sale

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Brace yourself: 348 Precita Avenue, the building on the south side of Precita Park that houses the small Precita Eyes mural studio, is for sale. Now Precita Eyes is organizing to discourage potential market-rate buyers:

Dear Friends of Precita Eyes,

Some of you may already know Precita Eyes Muralists’ studio on 348 Precita ave. is on the market for sale. We need your support to protest the sale to shake off competing bidders, BECAUSE A LOCAL HOUSING NON PROFITS ARE PLACING A BID TO BUY OUR BUILDING.

We ask you to talk about our 38 year old organization and our involvement in our community to potential bidders. Mention that the tenants above have lived there 30 plus years and they have no means to move.

Open house dates:
This Tuesday, August 25th (2:30-4pm) & Wednesday, August 26th (4-5pm)

We plan to have a FREE TODDLER ART CLASS & URBAN YOUTH ARTS during that time. It will be volunteered by our Toddler Art teacher Priya!!

Our Urban Youth Art Teacher Max will be present to create protest posters with the youth simultaneously.

IN SOLIDARITY!!!

MEDA is the Mission-based organization that has been active in the effort to block construction of new mixed-rate housing near the 16th St. BART station. In addition, MEDA also played a hands-on role in putting the Mission Housing Moratorium on the November ballot.

Prediction: This will be heated. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: In the comments, there’s some confusion about the Precita Eyes action plan. which appears to involve press outreach and an effort to “shake off competing bidders.”

If the recent sale of the Pigeon Palace property in the Mission is any guide, Prectia Eyes likely seeks to generate publicity about their organization, and the pending sale of 314 Precita, as part of an effort to discourage would-be market-rate purchasers from making offers for the building.  Eliminating other potential bidders would make MEDA’s effort to purchase 314 Precita more competitive. Precita Eyes is apparently working with MEDA to help purchase the building.

PHOTO: Precita Eyes on Facebook