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District 9 Supervisor David Campos goes off on fellow Supervisor Scott Wiener in front of a capacity crowd of 300 people, who packed the Mission Dolores Academy Auditorium on Feb. 24 to listen to the “A Changing Mission” panel discussion, hosted by the San Francisco Chronicle. Photo Dhoryan Rizo

To Mayor Ed Lee, Board of Supervisors, Planning Commissioners, and Planning Director John Rahim:

Calle 24 Latino Cultural District Council, which began as the Lower 24th Street Merchants Association in 1999, is a grassroots organization formed by community members of Calle 24 in the Mission District. We are an all-volunteer organization with diverse community council members representing merchants, residents, landlords, service nonprofits, arts organizations, youth, renters, homeowners, families and artists. We have deep roots in the Mission District going back many generations.

Many of our current legacy businesses are responsible for the social fabric and cultural richness created on 24th Street. We have grown from the bottom up to advocate for the needs of Calle 24 and the Latino Cultural District.

In May 2014, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the Mayor officially established the Latino Cultural District. Our task since then has been to determine the neighborhood’s vision for the Latino Cultural District. Our vision, mission, goals, governance, and programs were established through this public and inclusive process.

A full- capacity crowd of 300 packed the Mission Dolores Academy Auditorium on Feb. 24 to listen to the “A Changing Mission” panel discussion, hosted by the San Francisco Chronicle. Photo Dhoryan Rizo

We are proud of our community-driven process to determine the future of our community. But we are saddened and disturbed that the ability to determine our future is disrespected by real estate and investment interests that do not understand or care about the issues of our community, especially at a time when many families, residents, artists, nonprofits and small businesses are being displaced by unchecked development and skyrocketing rents.

We ask the city to hear the voices of our community, those who have been negatively impacted, and those who bring a vision to the table to help stop the displacement and create housing that is truly for all.

Through our community process—focus groups, stakeholder interviews, and public meetings—it is evident that the top priority from our forums is housing. Hundreds have seen their neighbors become displaced or homeless. Families who have lived here for decades, workers who built this city, artists, teachers and community leaders, who have contributed to making this a safe, desirable neighborhood, live in fear of displacement. It is a community priority that we exist as a living cultural district, not just a colorful tourist destination.

The Latino Cultural District process was funded and supported by Mayor Ed Lee and the City and County’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Earlier this month, the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District finished this official community process. As a result of what we learned, we now ask the board of Supervisors and the Mayor to do the following:

  • Prioritize and fast-track genuinely affordable housing projects in the Mission District, including the 17th and Folsom, Shotwell and Cesar Chavez, and 1950 Mission Street sites.
  • Slow the North Mission land grab by enacting interim controls that stop market-rate development in the Latino Cultural District to provide a window of time to study and develop new approaches that allow for genuinely affordable housing. The Eastern Neighborhoods plan isn’t adequate for today’s housing climate. As market-rate housing climbs to $1000 per square foot, mandated “affordable housing” is no longer affordable for the majority of current residents.
  • Protect current small business by enacting interim controls on high-end restaurants and the merging of retail commercial space.
  • Create a Japantown-like Special Use District that protects the cultural and historic assets of the Latino Cultural District.

While it initially seems counterintuitive to seek interim controls on development of new housing, existing development projects do not supply the actual demand of existing and new residents for affordable family homes. We see the current climate of development driven purely by the market as a threat to our very existence.

We are not seeking to keep people out; rather, we are trying to keep essential economic and cultural diversity in the Latino Cultural District. We must look at new alternatives that will bring economic and social justice to housing, stabilize our community and maintain the vibrancy of the Mission District.

— Calle 24 Latino Cultural District Council