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State of Emergency in the Mission 

Wednesday, May 13 2015
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The affordable housing crisis has hit many residents of the Mission District like a hurricane, and now housing activists and Supervisor David Campos want to see gentrification and displacement treated with the same degree of seriousness as a natural disaster.

Last Tuesday, Campos introduced an "urgency ordinance" to the Board of Supervisors that would place a moratorium on the construction of new market-rate housing in the historically Latino neighborhood. The legislation relies on a section of California state law that allows for changes to existing zoning code in order "to protect the public safety, health, and welfare."

"Displacement and even the threat of displacement really impact people's health, especially kids," Campos said Friday as he stood in the atrium of City Hall surrounded by hundreds of Mission residents and activists. The crowd had turned out to demand that Mayor Ed Lee declare a "state of emergency" in the city and implement emergency housing reforms including a one-year moratorium on evictions and a two-year moratorium on development of market-rate housing.

The idea that a moratorium on new construction could help ease the city's affordable housing crunch drives pro-development forces to distraction. Opponents to the moratorium say that San Francisco desperately needs more housing supply to cope with the city's increased population and ease rents. But to Campos, the moratorium is needed because the wrong kind of housing is being built. "This is a moratorium on luxury housing," he says. "Ninety-three percent of the units planned in the Mission are luxury housing. There's very little land in the Mission available for new housing. If we don't put a stop to the luxury housing, by the time the city is ready to buy land and build affordable housing, all the land will be gone."

Among the supporters of the moratorium was Romilo Domingo, a 58-year-old janitor who says that he recently lost his job at Park Merced when the apartment complex brought in a new, nonunion contractor to provide janitorial and handyman services. Domingo blames Park Merced's developers for the loss of his job, a team which includes Robert Rosania, who is also behind the development of the so-called "Monster in the Mission" — a 351-unit project planned for the intersection of 16th and Mission streets. A resident of the Mission for 40 years, Domingo gestured toward the throngs of protesters in City Hall: "I'm with them. I support them, not the builders. They're all about greed."

After rallying on the steps and providing a special background for several sets of wedding photographs, the protesters held an impromptu sit-in/pizza party outside the mayor's office. Under the watchful eyes of officers from the Sheriff's Department, they knocked on the heavy wood door and called for the mayor to come outside and talk to them.

The door remained closed.

About The Author

Julia Carrie Wong

Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

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