Save Our SoMa!

Save Our SoMa!
Speak out in opposition of the 5M Project

Note: Due to the anticipated volume of people attending, there will likely be “overflow” viewing rooms. Just ask any uniformed personnel where they will be located.

When: Thursday, 9/17 from 11am-10pm
Note: These hearings can last for several hours based on the number of agenda items and length of discussions. The 5M Project vote is a hot topic and maybe placed early on the agenda or later in the evening. As the hearing date approaches, please call or text Lorna Velasco at 415.867.5523 to find out what time would be best to arrive at city hall (or come back to this document).

Public Comment Process
You will be allowed to make a public comment. At times it's been limited to 1 minute, but it can be 2 or 3 minutes. Below are a list of talking points you can use during your minute speech. Choose any points, but please include the first 3 (if possible).

Talking Points (read details of the talking points below):

  • Ask for Continuance (Delay Vote)*
  • Recognize Filipino Heritage District (Arts and Culture)
  • Protect Youth and Families in SOMA
  • Displacement of low and middle income families due to unaffordability and real estate speculation
  • Forest City community benefits have no guarantees

A short description of the 5M Project
On the 4-acre parcel of land owned by the Hearst Corporation, the developers Forest City are proposing 3 towers ranging in height from 200 feet to 470 feet (45 stories). These towers will include 630 market-rate units, including 400 condos, 633,000 square feet of elite office space, and busts through current zoning that is like the existing neighborhood scale (40 to 160 feet).

The Planning Department and the developers have been meeting for eight years to make a deal separate from the community planning process of Central SoMa. Thus began the process to create a Special Use District (SUD) to approve 5M’s proposed design. What this means is that they are able to build while completely violating height or bulk restrictions. To put into context, 470 feet is between the height of the Statute of Liberty and the Washington Monument. It's basically the size of the Embarcadero buildings and 1/3 taller than the Intercontinental Hotel. The added height gives over a million additional square feet to the project and huge amounts of land value to Forest City and Hearst Corporation, whether they build on it, or not.

Why we are opposed to the current plan
SOMA has been historically a Filipino hub of arts and culture, one of the very few places immigrant and low-income families have been able to afford. In 2011, a Filipino Social Heritage Special Use District for the South of Market was proposed to the Planning Commission by the Western SoMA Citizens Planning Task Force. As stated in the proposal, "Recognizing, Protecting and Memorializing South of Market Filipino Social Heritage Neighborhood Resources," the district “highlights the long-standing cultural institutions in the neighborhood as they have served as places of worship, for community services, for arts expression, and as sites for cultural activities”*. Filipino leadership has been asking for the Filipino Heritage District for years and yet the 5M project is being fast tracked to be approved on September 17.

There has been a history of displacement of Filipinos in San Francisco, from the I-Hotel where our World War II veterans and retired farm laborers were kicked out of their homes so that the Financial District could be expanded. The buildout of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Moscone Centers have also displaced hundreds of Filipino families. There are currently 3,000 Filipinos in SOMA who have felt the pressure and brunt of evictions. If these luxury condos are approved and built, a new (richer) population of people will move into the new spaces and surrounding land values will increase, making it unaffordable for many low-income families, and hastening evictions and real estate speculation.

* (p. 71)

Counterpoints by 5M
5M is touting the community benefits, 33% affordable housing, and that they have undergone hundreds of meetings and have taken into consideration and made changes in their construction based on community input by adding open spaces, and providing CAST the arts funding they need to renovate the Dempster building.

Keep in mind that a vast majority of the money they are “giving” are required fees to the city by any new development. For the 212 affordable housing units that make up that 33% number, only 58 units are at the project site and is planned to be built after the 100% market rate condo tower and massive office building are completed. Those units are given by a lottery system, so that the neighboring families who will be affected by this will have a slim chance of moving into these units as they compete with thousands of other applications from all over the city. The other units counted will be for the housing site in the Tenderloin, also part of a lottery, and for a land transfer to the city that officials could sell at any time.

Once again, the Filipino arts organizations like Kearny Street Workshop, Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, Manilatown Heritage Foundation, Kularts, and Bindlestiff, many of which have already existed in the South of Market for over 20 years were not even part of the conversation when it came to art funding and investment. Instead they are bringing an outside group to manage and create arts and cultural programming in an already thriving and deep-rooted community. In the end, if the plan is approved, Forest City can and will sell the rights to build their towers to the highest bidder. Whether it's Forest City or another developer, whatever concessions they have made to the community will be impossible to uphold.

What you can say
They need to recognize the rich and deep history of the Filipino community in the South of Market. This is the very last place we are able to settle after a long history of displacement. We have artistic, cultural, and religious institutions here that merit a Filipino Heritage District.
The development of over 600 market-rate units, will encourage speculation, increase land values, escalate evictions, and push out the current population made up of the working class, families, youth, and seniors. Even the possibility of it increases rents and speculation in the area, as seen in the many shut down businesses surrounding the site.
The community is asking for further review on family displacement, impact on the community, further analysis on environmental impact, and slowing down the process, and the need for continuance in December.
The project objective to create “a dense commercial center with office, retail, residential, cultural, educational, and open space uses focused on supporting and retaining the next generation of the region’s knowledge-based technology industry in San Francisco” works against the intentions of the Youth and Family zone and Pilipino Cultural Heritage District in which the project is located. Reject the staff recommendation to take the H-1 parcels from the Youth and Family zone.
Bindlestiff Studio, an arts organizations that has been in the South of Market for 26 years, has not been a part of this outreach or community discussion until recently. This development will impact the population we serve, emerging and veteran Filipino artists, youth from the community, and the underserved population whose stories and narratives have never been part of the mainstream.

Other organizations in opposition to the project
South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN) Mission Neighborhood Resource Center The Women’s Building
Filipino-American Development Foundation (FADF)
Anti-Eviction Mapping Project
SF Tenants Union
Bayanihan Community Center
San Francisco Neighborhood Network
Calle 24
Veterans Equity Center (VEC)
Plaza 16 Coalition
Causa: Just Cause
Manilatown Heritage Foundation
Mission United
Westbay Pilipino Multi-Services
Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods
Cathedral Hill Neighbors
The Filipino Community Center (FCC)
Western Regional Advocacy
Gabriela Network-San Francisco
Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco
Kearney Street Workshop

The Planning Commissioners
Rodney Fong, President
Christine D. Johnson
Rich Hillis
Cindy Wu, Planning Commission Vice President
Kathrin Moore
Michael J, Antonini
Dennis Richards