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Disputed Mission District Dot-Com Project OKd
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Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Disputed Mission District Dot-Com Project OKd
Foes got support from only 3 supervisors
Edward Epstein, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 27, 2000
2000 San Francisco Chronicle

After a five-hour hearing, San Francisco supervisors voted last night to allow a big and bitterly disputed dot-com development to proceed in the Mission District.

The 159,000-square-foot Bryant Square project, a six-building complex that would occupy most of the block bordered by 19th, York, 20th and Bryant streets, has become another symbol in the debate over the implications of the city's construction and new-technology industry boom.

Proponents, who won City Planning Commission approval for the project last month, say the development will create jobs and help foster growth of the city's economy.

``We believe we have shown a willingness to work with the community and address the many issues affecting this community,'' said Dan Kingsley of SKS Investments, the politically well-connected project developer that donated about $95,000 last year to Mayor Willie Brown's re-election campaign.

Opponents, who wanted supervisors to downsize or kill the project, said Bryant Square symbolizes the displacement of working-class people from the Mission and other neighborhoods by dot-com firms and other high-tech industries.

``It's an elitist kind of group that's pushing out long-term Mission residents,'' said resident Fred Barnes.

Cynthia Martinez, who grew up in the area, agreed.

``We're being kicked out. I fear for the future of people of color in our city,'' she said.

Kingsley said the project -- which has been navigating the planning process for two years -- will bring about $2 million in contributions to city funds for affordable housing, child care and transit through various fees. In addition, space in Bryant Square will go to nonprofit groups and to artists so they can stay in a neighborhood where rents are surging. There also will be off-street parking and a shuttle bus to carry workers to BART, the Municipal Railway and Caltrain.

Kinglsey was supported by 13-year neighborhood resident Marty Schneffenberg, who said he was prepared to oppose the development but found SKS's plan compelling.

``When I stripped away the veils of alarmist rhetoric, I found little substance in the opposition,'' he said.

David Bracker, head of Arriba Juntos, a job training group that will be housed in the Bryant Square project, said it is time for the Mission to embrace the dot-com economy.

``For years, we have been concerned over the lack of good-paying jobs. . . . Now we have an industry that's here. I reject the notion that our residents can't get information technology jobs,'' said Bracker, who said his group has 37 people in training for such jobs.

Opponents needed eight votes to stop the project, which wil sit on the edge of a city industrial protection zone. They landed only three: Tom Ammiano, Mark Leno and Sue Bierman. The other eight supervisors supported it.

``The process itself is flawed,'' said Ammiano, who faces re-election in November in the supervisorial district that includes the site. ``I don't think it reflects the depth of the feeling we've heard today. . . . People like to feel they have a say in their destiny.''

But Supervisor Leslie Katz said SKS should be praised for going out of its way to accommodate the neighborhood.

``This project has exceeded the requirements, and they've done this voluntarily,'' she said.

Bierman, who was a longtime planning commissioner, said she could not support a project that has stirred such opposition.

`We don't usually support projects that have no support from the neighbors. You just have to compromise,'' she told the developers.

Opponents, led by Ammiano, first tried to get a two-week delay in the hearing, claiming they hadn't received adequate notice. But board clerk Gloria Young said all legal notification rules had been followed.

The motion for a delay was defeated 8 to 3, with the same lineup of supervisors as in the main vote.

The protracted session was the latest skirmish in a long fight over changes resulting from the city's booming new-technology industries. Mission District residents will get another chance to sound off on the project before the City Planning Commission and Planning Director Gerald Green at a community forum from 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow at Horace Mann Middle School, at 23rd and Bartlett streets.

E-mail Edward Epstein at epstein@sfgate.com.

2000 San Francisco Chronicle Page A19

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