Controversial housing proposal at 16th and Mission follows calls to "Clean up the Plaza"

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Artist rendering of the 10-story housing project proposed for 16th and Mission streets.

El Tecolote had a great cover story last week about the coalition that has formed to oppose a large housing development proposed for the corner of 16th and Mission streets, with 351 new homes that would tower 10 stories above the BART plaza, which is a gathering place for the poor SRO residents who live in the area.

This could become the next great battleground over the gentrification and displacement struggles that are rapidly transforming the Mission, where commercial and residential evictions have been increasing as real estate speculators trying to cash in on the hot housing market.

The article covered a recent protest by the Plaza 16 Coalition, which includes Latino, social justice, and housing rights groups, as well as parents from nearby Marshall Elementary School, which would be left in the shadows of the development project.

The article mentioned but didn’t shed much light on the shadowy Clean up the Plaza campaign, which popped up in September, the month before Maximus Real Estate Partners introduced the lucrative project, which the San Francisco Business Times pegged at $175 million.

The Clean of the Plaza campaign started a website and covered the neighborhood with flyers decrying the “deplorable” conditions around 16th and Mission and painted a portrait of people risking violent assaults every time they use BART, employing more than a little hyperbole while declaring “Enough is enough.”

But the campaign didn’t return Guardian calls at the time or again this week, nor those from El Tecolote or others who have tried to ask questions about possible connections to the developers, who also didn’t return Guardian calls about the project.

“Everyone has assumed those are connected, but nobody has found the smoking gun,” activist Andy Blue told the Guardian.

The possible connection between the development project and a supposedly grassroots campaign seeking to “clean up” that corner did come during the Jan. 23 Assembly District 17 debate between Board President David Chiu and Sup. David Campos, who represents the Mission.

Chiu chided Campos for conditions in the area, claiming “crime has not been tackled” and citing the thousands of signatures on the Clean up the Plaza campaign claims to have gathered on its petition as evidence that Campos’ constituents aren’t happy with his leadership.

“It’s a way to get a luxury condo project,” Campos countered. “You would be supportive of that.”

Campos told the Guardian that he doesn’t have evidence of the connection and that he’s remaining neutral on the project, noting that it could eventually come before the Board of Supervisors. But Campos said he has worked with both police and social service providers to address concerns raised by the petitions and flyers.

“To the extent there were legitimate concerns by these people, I wanted to address them,” Campos said, noting that there have been more police officers patrolling the area and homeless outreach teams trying to get help to people who need it in recent months, a trend we’ve observed.

As to the fate of the project and efforts to promote it, stay tuned.