1515 South Van Ness Rendering

It’s not the first time we’ve heard of San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation (SFBARF) managing to rub the very people they’re supposed to be courting in all the wrong ways. But in this case, public comments from SFBARF’s founder, Sonja Trauss, are being fingered for effectively undermining the former approval of Lennar’s 157-unit development at 1515 South Van Ness Avenue in the Mission, a project which is slated to provide 25 percent of its units at below market rates.

Approved by San Francisco’s Planning Commission in August, an appeal of the project’s environmental review was heard by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. And according to the San Francisco Business Times, while Supervisor Campos, who represents the Mission, had been planning to reject the appeal and uphold the project’s approval, following comments by Trauss and another supporter, comments which Campos characterized as “hateful, ignorant and divisive,” Campos voted in favor of the appeal and it was upheld by a 9-0 vote.

“I think Sonja Trauss turned off not just me. They turned an entire board against them,” Campos said to the Times. “This is someone who has no sensitivity and no concern on the impact that the project could have on the cultural district…You can be passionate, but not disrespectful.”

In order to proceed with the development at 1515 South Van Ness, Lennar will now need to complete a more detailed environmental review, which will take months at a minimum but could stretch up to a year.

In addition, the successful appeal could open the doors to a comprehensive challenge of San Francisco’s Eastern Neighborhoods Plan in general, a plan which currently allows complying projects to be exempted from having to complete Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) on a project-by-project basis.

41 thoughts on “Who Needs NIMBYs with Friends Like These”
  1. As a neighbor, this is very disappointing. What was proposed is a very reasonable building with a large affordable component. We need this housing. Seems like the board had a knee-jerk response to something said at the hearing, by someone with no actual connection to the project.

  2. Unbelievable pettiness on all sides if the reaction to SFBARF’s harangue is the true reason for the BOS action.

    More substantively troubling is the purported Eastern Neighborhoods/CEQA basis. Is the City Attorney constrained to defend the Board in any subsequent litigation?

    Certainly would be an expansive (and political) reading of CEQA. Query whether the Board’s ruling can be read as founded solely upon the appellants’ urging of the statutory reach (clearly within the courts’ purview) or also as a political/policy decision (much more removed from their jurisdiction unless constitutionally unfirm).

    1. yeah, for sure this ends up in court to get some clarification on that. the opponents were themselves trying to frame the question as of denying CEQA exemption under the eastern neighborhoods plan because the plan didn’t require (and filing didn’t include) an analysis of the effects of gentrification. if lennar can convince a judge that’s what happened, then it should at the minimum go back before the board, like that seems a far too crazy expansion of the law to allow to stand.

      seems nuts that it would come to this, man.

  3. Excuse me? You’re trying to turn this around on Sonja Trauss? Even IF what she said was a gaffe, BARF is out in full force trying to get approval for tons of projects. The fault lies with Campos, pouting like a child, because someone called him out. The supervisors need to do their jobs and just approve this project. The way business is conducted in San Francisco is Kafkaesque. We need as of right development, yesterday.

  4. Calling activists (and the BoS apparently) ‘nativists’ is pretty much spot-on. That they don’t like it is a reflection on them rather than a synopsy of the issues around housing. NIMBY sentiments are endemic thru-out SF and the Bay Area. That they favor the ‘blue jerseys’ rather than the ‘red jerseys’ is irrelevant.

  5. The article should have quote the comment in question:

    “”In Trump’s America, we’re already disturbed by nativism everywhere. We don’t like it. And when you come here to the Board of Supervisors and say that you don’t want new, different people in your neighborhood, you’re exactly the same as Americans all over the country that don’t want immigrants. It is the same attitude,”

    I don’t know why Campos consider this comment “hateful, ignorant and divisive”. I understand people are pissed to be associated with Trump. But the comment itself is very fair. It draws the commonality between Trump supporter and some NIMBYs with respect to nativism. Campos got it wrong. Nativism is divisive. Sonja reject it. She embrace immigrant a like. So actually she is inclusive. Campos himself should come out against nativism, given he is an immigrant from Guatemala.

    1. He used that language specifically to hide his own hateful, ignorant and divisive approach to the project as well as his tragically misguided crusade against gentrification (a noble cause, don’t get me wrong). Further, does anyone really believe he went into the hearing expecting to reject the appeal? Please. Not only does that expose his bias, it exposes his eagerness to be petty and vindictive. Comparisons to Trump are spot on.

        1. Yeah, but that’s just councilmanic prerogative, no? It’s typical to yield to the representative whose district the project is in.

        2. There have been plenty of unanimous votes in the last few years on divisive measures that were 6-5, 7-4, etc, which ultimately went 11-0. Kim 2.0 was one, iirc.

          Spineless? Perhaps. Phoney? Yeah. San Francisco ‘values’ – unfortunately.

      1. The account of the proceedings as related in Mission Local seems to indicate Aaron Peskin was a primary actor in the Board’s reaction to the project’s “supporters'” presentation.

  6. what she said is a true statement. he doesnt want diversity in his district, so comparing him to Trump is right on

    1. Actually, it is, among other things. The project itself also displaces NOBODY, and provides 25% affordable housing. Just sad.

  7. This is a ridiculous article. Supervisors are elected to make decisions on a factual basis, not based on who rubbed them the right/wrong way. Now boasting that your decision was influenced by the tone of an activist is a cheap way of avoiding responsibility and leadership.

    On top of it, this is highly ironic. This ‘be careful what you say’ attitude from Campos is straight from the Donald Trump playbook.

  8. This is tragic…I live blocks away and was hoping this project would add more vitality to this stretch of SVN. It’s really desolate down there.

    Also, what about the tone an language used by Campos and his ilk. Why are people so weak they cannot even handle “language”. Yes Calle 24 and crew ARE acting like Trump. They are being intellectually dishonest if they refuse to see the parallels. SF liberal inclusion philosophy is to include only those we agree with and look like us other wise “not welcome”.

  9. This past year has taught us about the lack of listening comprehension in our public discourse. Campos shows us that the “horse-shoe” theory is alive and well. He willing postponed 40 affordable units to prove a non-existent point because he didn’t listen to what the speaker said and replied with his own ideals and prejudices.

  10. This is why we should be required to give ‘trigger warnings’ to our Supervisors whenever we speak to them. They need a few minutes to brace for their inner cognitive dissonance that the speaker will evoke.

    And the chambers of the BoS needs to have a ‘safe space’ to where Supervisors can retreat for a little while, after being forced to listen to their constituents.

  11. SFBARF’s position was right. The developer built within the specific guidelines of what the code allows, and the board rejected it because SFBARF spoke with truth. There is no environmental hazard to this project. Without it rents will continue to stay high and more people will be pushed out.

    1. The ad hominem attack upon the appellants was totally irrelevant to the issue before the Board and stupid strategy but I guess she just couldn’t resist hitting back at her “enemies.”

      Rather Trumpian in itself.

      1. Who cares what she said? The job of the Supervisors with respect to appeals is to act like a quasi-judicial body and judge a project on its factual merits and whether or not it met the legal criteria, not pout and throw tantrums because there didn’t like a particular comment by a member of the public.

        If Campos and the other Board member truly voted the way they did because of dislike of a particular public comment, they need to be removed from their position on the Board.

    1. A link to her comments was posted above. Do you find them particularly obnoxious?

      One possible explanation for the unanimous vote is that the other supervisors concede to the voting decision of the supervisor who’s district the development is in.

  12. Rich people, protest this travesty not by walking on the freeway and smashing windows, but by buying up all the buildings you can and ELLIS ACTING them !

  13. Well I wasn’t at the hearing, so couldn’t say. Was that comment her whole speech?

    “one possible explanation for the unanimous vote is that the other supervisors concede to the voting decision of the supervisor who’s district the development is in.” Do you have some link to support this idea?

    1. I think we’re missing the point here, the point being that making this decision upon the basis of some gratuitous even if ill-mannered comments was incredibly irresponsible even by the “politics of personalities” standards of SF.

      1. Agreed, though I struggle to see how Trauss’ comments were provocative. McMillan’s comments, on the other hand, were. Linking gang activity to the Latino and homeless communities was pretty bad.

  14. Campos, like Trump, was voted into office by angry [people] with no education based on a campaign of scapegoating newcomers. So the analogy is far more apt than it might appear, and like Trump, Campos is a thin-skinned vindictive sad excuse for a politician.

    I don’t go near his “cultural district” on a regular basis, so I don’t care if this building stands or falls, but this exhibition in dysfunctional fact-averse government is – to use a fashionable word – deplorable.

  15. The neighborhood is really the biggest loser here. Tear-down condition shacks in this area sell for well over a million dollars, as everyone knows. There’s no place for people to live. Campos just made the problem worse with this impulsive and foolish decision, which will further restrict housing supply and lead to greater displacement of Latino families and others.

  16. How NOT to address the housing shortage: needlessly delay a desirable expansion of the housing supply (including 25% affordable units) because one commenter was rude and obviously out of line and another accurately pointed out the prejudice of Sup. Campos against higher-income residents. Tying Campos to Trump was unwise, given the emotional level prevailing at the time. Campos should have behaved more maturely, knowing that the other Supes would no doubt follow his vote, to get more housing built for his district.

    1. I realize Campos is a favorite whipping-boy in these parts but your’s is hardly an accurate recounting of what happened and he was hardly responsible for this idiotic action by the Board as a whole.

  17. Looks like as of march 2017, replacement supervisor Hillary Ronin has negotiated a deal to let the project go forward. Of course the negotiation had nothing to do with the subsequent EIR work. All it took was a $1m donation to a fund controlled by her friends (and campaign donors) at Calle24. The Peskin/Campos engineered public slap at SFBARF ended up being just more cover for the SF nativist politics of multi-stage extortion. Is anyone surprised?

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