Big changes to Hunters Point has residents fearing gentrification
Amendment could mean eminent domain


SAN FRANCISCO — As one of the former owners of the All Night Market on
Third Street, 63-year-old, James Keith has seen a lot of changes in the
57 years he's lived in the Bayview Hunters Point district of San Francisco.

However, the changes facing the district have the potential to be the
most dramatic the area has seen.

Some residents fear the neighborhood, long depressed but also seen as a
refuge for low-income people and minorities, especially African
Americans, will fall under the blade of gentrification.

On March 7, the Redevelopment Agency of the City and County of San
Francisco unanimously voted to adopt an amendment to the Redevelopment
Plan for the Bayview Hunters Point Redevelopment Project, opening the
door for the development of more than 1,500 acres of land in southeast
San Francisco.

The meeting drew a passionate crowd of more than 200 people who took
turns supporting or lambasting the plan. The much larger than expected
crowd necessitated the use of two overflow roomswhere the proceedings
could be viewed on closed circuit television.

Like many residents, Keith was concerned about the implications of the
plan, so much so that before the meeting he spoke out against it at a
rally held on the footsteps of City Hall.

I don't want to get pushed out from where I am," Keith said. "I've lived
in (my) home since I was 11 years old."

After the meeting though, Keith had a different view on the situation.

When I came upstairs and got my hands on the plan and saw that there
were some safeguards supposedly in place ... and (after) speaking with
people I know and trust in the neighborhood, I thought 'Well, I'll give
it a shot'," said Keith.

The plan calls for a 1,361 acre expansion of the Hunters Point
Redevelopment Project Area from its existing 137 acres, encompassing
much of the area from Cesar Chavez Street south to Candlestick Point and
from Highway 101 east to the Hunters Point Shoreline.

The project dwarfs the redevelopment of the Fillmore District, which
consisted of roughly 64 square blocks.

One of the big concerns voiced by many of the residents who spoke
against the plan was the threat of eminent domain and the possibility
the predominantly black Bayview Hunters Point would be gentrified the
way the city's Western Edition was 30 years ago, forcing long-term
residents out.

Some of that concern is kind of legitimate, but it's only legitimate if
we haven't learned anything," said Dr. George Davis one of the members
of the Project Area Committee (PAC), which is the elected community body
that advises the Redevelopment Agency.

That (the Fillmore redevelopment) happened years ago and if we haven't
learned anything, then we deserve it to happen (again).

Use of eminent domain over residential zones is not allowed in the
language of the plan without approval by the Redevelopment Agency, the
Board of Supervisors and the PAC.

The plan calls for economic development and community enhancements
including the creation of "community destinations" such as plazas for
fairs and festivals, the promotion of neighborhood-serving businesses,
establishment of new public parks and recreational facilities, and the
creation of new jobs for area residents.

If I have to be here everyday and every night and come to all these
meetings so this can pass that's what I'm going do," said 23-year-old
Shawn Ferguson.

He is in the Youth Community Development program based in Hunters Point.

Ferguson spoke in favor of the plan during the meeting, and in theory,
will benefit from the jobs created by the plan when he graduates from
the program.

Not everyone was pleased with the prospects of the plan though.

What this vote essentially means is that the independence and self
determination of the community is being taken away and it's being
overshadowed and adopted by the Redevelopment Agency and that's a
problem," said 25-year-old Oakland resident Alicia Schwartz, a member of
People Organized to Win Employment Rights, a group that works
extensively in the Bayview Hunters Point area.

It means that the city and government can encroach upon your property
and encroach upon the value that you put into your property at your
expense," Schwartz said. "And that's not okay."