Findin Nemo Showing May 23rd!

Free free movie night will take place Friday May 23rd at Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreation Park. The movie also provides free chinese food for the first 50 people who show up.

Everyone remembers the story of Finding Nemo a father clown fish and his forgetful friend Dory search for his lost sun with a special fin. This is a special way to gather and get together with family members and others in the community to remember this classic Disney and Pixar film. For the Children who have never seen the film before should be impressed and it may become their new favorite Pixar flick. It is the perfect to refresh ones memory of the movie with the sequel coming in 2016 Finding Dory.

Time 5-8 p.m.

Where: 650 Capitol Ave, San Francisco

When: May 23rd

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Resident Organizations Fight to stop Re-Development of Parkmerced.

Parkmerced is a calm and quiet neighborhood tucked on the West Side of San Francisco. You see parents walking their children to pre-school, residents going for their morning run, dogs happily on leashes pulling their owners as they are in excitement to go on their daily walks. Children can be seen on the jungle gym in the afternoon, as well as residents performing the meditative art of Tai chi. Families and friends gather in their garden-styled home back yard to spend quality time with one another. Parkmerced is San Francisco’s taste of Suburbia.

All of that may be coming to an end with the passing of a $1.2 billion re-development of the neighborhood that would take over 20-30 years to complete. The project plan, which was passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors three years ago on May 24, 2011 by a 6 to 5 majority decision will bring the neighborhood into the new millennium. The project will tear down 1,538 town homes and replace them and will also add 5,679 new units. The project itself is set up to expand the neighborhood, it would create low rises and high rises to give more housing opportunities and more land for residents for a new school, day care center, restaurants, grocery stores, athletic facilities, parks, public plazas and having the Metro Muni M Line run though from 19th Avenue. All of these things will be in walking distance giving residents more accessible amenities.

Many current residents oppose of the project and have filed suit against the owners of Parkmerced (Fortress Investment Group) and since the suit the development has been halted. The groups that are opposed to the development are The Parkmerced Action Coalition, The Coalition to Save Parkmerced and San Francisco Tomorrow.

The groups lost the original decision on stopping the development due to their belief of problems with the projects environmental review and are now appealing the case in San Francisco Appeals court. The case will be heard May 19th.

“It has a lot of environmental concerns that we filed a lawsuit against them to stop this plan and make them go back to the drawing board,” said Vice President of Parkmerced Action Coalition Susan Suval.

Protestors to the project find it baffling that the developers need to tear down the existing homes to upgrade them especially when you look at what San Francisco State University did with their portion of Parkmerced, University Park South.

“Look at the San Francisco State University owned block, University Park South,” said Aaron Goodman a San Francisco Tomorrow board member fighting against the Parkmerced development. “They actually renovated all of the units re-did the roofing and pulled the gutters out of the walls, which was do to deterioration issues and managed to do a pretty nice renovation of the University Park South block without having to demolish a single one. Parkmerced when making their renovations of the project didn’t address the gutters instead did a cosmetic upgrade of the building.”

“One of the main things is tearing down the 1,500 town houses a lot of them are in need of rehabilitation they keep on saying ‘we need jobs we need jobs’ there are as many jobs in refurbishing, remodeling, rehabilitating existing properties as in construction,” Suval Said.

They are also confused concerning the belief that the project would be a more environmentally friendly design.

“Demolishing houses that are sound is not green,” said Goodman. “It has nothing to do with green sustainability in design.”

Another concern from residents is that the demolishing of the neighborhoods would leave them without homes.

According to Parkmerced’s development website parkmercedvision.com the owners give a list of commitments.

“Any existing residentwho lives in a building slated for replacement will be provided a brand new unit at the same rent-controlled rate as their existing apartment at the time of relocation.”

Parkmerced development spokesman PJ Johnston is adamant that ownership is keen on their promise and that the process of demolishing homes will not start until new homes have been built for residents.

“When the Parkmerced plan was approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors it was made clear by the management of Parkmerced that no demolition will happen until new buildings are built and as we’ve made clear on many occasions any Parkmerced resident that is in a building that gets set for replacement has first opportunity to move into the new units that are built at rent controlled prices and for the duration of their lease and into the future,” said Johnston. “The key to Parkmerced is that we’re building new homes first before anything is taken down and then well go in several fazes so that is always the case nobody will ever have to move out of Parkmerced as a result of this construction if they don’t wish to. “

Still residents don’t believe ownership as they always have the ability to go back on their word because they are just “promises” according to Julian Lagos, a 21 year Parkmerced resident who runs the Coalition to Save Parkmerced.

“The problem with these promises by Parkmerced is that they’re legally unenforceable,” said Lagos. “California’s Costa-Hawkins bill prohibits the imposition of rent control on new apartment units built after 1994.  San Francisco’s rent control laws also prohibit the imposition of rent control on any new apartment units built after 1978.  So, in my opinion, Parkmerced’s promises are illusory.”

Some residents are taking a wait and see approach with the developer’s promises.

“There’s lots of promises on what people will be offered as a new place to live and a new home but they’re just promises, said David Williams a driver who has lived in Parkmerced for four years. “There is nothing forcible so I just live with it like well there’s things to life you can’t control and one of them is the things developers do.”

The disbelief comes from the change of ownership during the project. Parkmerced was once owned by Stellar Management and is currently owned by Fortress Investment Group. New ownership doesn’t have to keep their promises according to California’s Costa-Hawkins bill. If the new owners feel the need to evict tenants to bump up prices in rent they can take the case to court.

“They are promises and its obviously concerning I mean the ownership has changed over since that deal was introduced,” said Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together. “So now remains the big question in Parkmerced is are the promises that are outlined in the development agreement going to be kept or are they going to be challenged by this owner or a subsequent owner?”

With the case still in court and a belief the decision will come this year this is something to watch, as it could be the beginning of the end for Parkmerced.

“This is truly a David vs. Goliath case,” said Goodman.

 

           Parkmerced Development

By The Numbers.

 

3,221 residential units (before development)

11 High Rise buildings (before development)

Approximately 10,000 residents.

1,538 would be torn down and remodeled.

5,679 additional units added.

8,900 total units (After development)

20-30 years to complete

Approximately 152 Acres of land

68 acres used for open spaces (After Development)

1,600 new parking spaces (After Development)

An underground parking structure (After Development)

The Muni M Ocean View Line (After development)

Sources: sf-planning.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts on Lake Merced

Lake Merced is a quite neighborhood with a lot of character. The place reminds me a little bit about home. It’s like a suburb but with its own San Francisco twist. You can sense a feel of community there especially with the schools and the day care center around it. If you head to the lake you can see old friends chatting it up or new ones forming with each other. One of the specific parts of Lake Merced that stood out was the neighborhood Park Merced the place itself is quite but has a big community of people who work together daily. The town homes are something to see as they give the neighborhood a more community feel that I have ever seen. Unfortunately in covering that area I’ve come to learn that it may not stay the same for long as the ownership and the city plan to demolish and renovate the neighborhood in a project that would  take at least 20 years to finish. The project has the possibility to displace residents and leave them homeless. The other project going on in the area is the new town homes being built on Brotherhood Way. The street itself was donated from the city but it has gone back on its promise to build condominiums. It was stated if there would ever be construction that it would be for educational or religious purposes. This makes me think that the way I saw San Francisco before was a lie. I saw San Francisco as a place that took care of its own communities and would always put their best foor forward to help them out. I’ve come to learn that isn’t the case as I see with these situations and the one in the Mission District. I’d never think that San Francisco would sell out for big money projects when they are home to numerous independent stores and mom and pop shops, which I believed they were proud of. Times seem to be changing in San Francisco and the city may become too expensive for the middle class to live in. I had a great experience working in the Lake Merced area trying to find interesting stories. I learned a lot too like how to connect with a person in a neighborhood or talk to random people on the street. In the beginning it was tough but I soon gotten over it and the fact that residents were always able to help me when I needed to get quotes for a story was really awesome. I had some tough instances with residents but those happened less frequently than the successes. I’m glad to have been able to cover this community it taught me a lot about gathering facts, information and talking to strangers and making them contacts.

THE COALITION TO SAVE PARK MERCED

Julian Lagos, a 59 year old retired high school social studies teacher is fighting for his home, and the homes of others. Lagos started the Coalition to Save Park Merced in 2007, which is a network of concerned and longtime Parkmerced residents that are committed to preserving the community they live in. And oppose the owner’s plans to demolish the apartments.

“I started the Coalition to Save Parkmerced in 2007 when the owners of
Parkmerced filed their project applications with the City of San Francisco
to build 8900 luxury condominiums and demolish the existing garden
townhouse apartment units,” Lagos said.

He has been a resident of the Lake Merced neighborhood of Parkmerced for 21 years and a resident of San Francisco for 36. Lagos was born and raised in Los Angeles, Calif. He attended The University of Southern California where he studied Broadcast Journalism.

After graduating college he got a job as a taxicab driver in San Francisco. He would work that job from 1979 to 1989. During that time he would become the co-founder of The United Taxicab Workers union, which represented taxicab drivers since 1986.

“I’ve always been an outspoken person against social and economic
injustices dating back to when I was an adolescent growing up in
Los Angeles through adulthood to the present here in San Francisco, Lagos said.

I’ve marched and protested against all U.S. wars since the Vietnam War
era and have supported and worked politically on behalf of Cesar Chavez
and the United Farm Workers during the grape boycott and the struggle to
unionize migrant farm workers here in California.”

Lagos has always been involved in his community and was aware of what was going on around him. He’s worked as a union organizer on behalf of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Communication Workers of America, United Educators of San Francisco, and the Oakland Educators Association.

Lagos has also worked as a tenant organizer back in the late 70’s in San Francisco with the group Tenants Against ConversionThis group fought the conversion
of residential hotels to tourist hotels in the downtown area and the displacement
of low-income residential hotel tenants.

“Every job I’ve worked has affected the way I view the world and all its injustices,
since the time I was an 11 year old boy delivering newspapers in Los Angeles
through the time of my last paid job as a teacher here in San Francisco,” Lagos said.

He even tried politics. In 1998 he ran for the San Francisco County Board of Education. Lagos would later try his hand again at politics 14 years later as he ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors District 7 seat in 2012 the race was won by Democrat Norman Yee replacing democratic incumbent Sean Elsbernd.

Now Lagos and the Coalition to Save Park Merced are in a fight with multiple developers, the owners of Parkmerced, San Francisco State University and city hall to protect their neighborhood from being torn down.

“I have opposed the Brotherhood Way development project since 2005
when the plans to build were first introduced to our community, Lagos said. I am opposed to any new housing, especially for the wealthy.”

Jade Scileppi, a resident of Parkmerced for 5 years, has been working with Lagos for the past year. She has gone with him to City Hall to argue against the tearing down of trees on brotherhood way. Scileppi finds working with Lagos very stimulating.

“He knows a ton of details about many areas of environment and law, She said. He thinks clearly and logically. He’s a great guy with his heart in the right place.”

Lagos has gone so far as too file lawsuits against the Brotherhood Way development in 2006 and San Francisco State University in 2007 who’s plan is to expand the campus and build shopping malls and hotels along 19th Street and Font Avenue.

They lost their battle with the Court of Appeals over the Brotherhood Way development and the tearing down of trees and the building of condos has begun. The main purpose for fighting against the development was to protect a wildlife habitat, which is now destroyed.

The fate of Parkmerced will be decided in the court of appeals sometime this year. If it passes it will displace the 10,000 or so residents that live there. The project itself would take about 20-30 years to complete.

Lagos does not want his neighborhood to be torn down he believes it needs to be preserved and converted into a resident owned operative.

“Morale is not very good among residents, especially the ‘old timers’ like
myself, Lagos said. We’re worried about our future and whether we’ll be able to
stay and have an affordable home to live in here in San Francisco,
especially if this project is approved by the Court.”

A Day in Lake Merced

It’s a beautiful Monday afternoon at Lake Merced. It is warmer than usual and as it gets warmer attendance rises. Both parking lots are full forcing others who want to enjoy the lake to park on the street. A plethora of birds await me as I walk to the picnic tables. The women having a conversation laugh as they continue to feed the birds. I sit down to get the jest of what is around me a man at the very next park bench awakes. He walks away towards the bridge that goes over the lake screaming that at the birds “you guys stole, you guys stole.”

Around the lake people are running, walking, or walking their dogs like clockwork. Around they go around the lake with the occasional person cutting through the bridge. I head to the bridge coming toward me I see a man with an over excited pitbull. I can tell it’s young because of how hard it is for him to control it. I ask how old he is and he says, “it’s five months old” he continues to walk down the bridge and into his car. I look over and see an older gentleman fishing he is later joined by two other gentleman who also try their luck to catch a fish. I go up to the ledge of the bridge to get a closer  view of the lake. When I notice the ledge is riddled with white bird droppings and sporadic graffiti. The lake itself is vast with three yellow buoys in it. The water is dirty and in the shallow water you can notice debris like bottles and food. I notice two young guys taking photos of the lake. I ask them what they like about it. One of the men wearing cargo shorts and a San Francisco 49ers sweater was Curtis Loren, 20 goes to San Francisco City College.

“It’s beautiful,” said Loren. “Especially on a day like this. I come out here pretty much every Monday and Wednesday after class. It’s quiet, it’s interesting to watch and talk to people here. Sometimes there is a lot going on. I usually come to run but today is a rest day and I’m taking photos of the lake for a class.”

It starts to get darker I sit at one of the tables. A young family comes and sits at a table across from me. The father brings out the bubbles from the diaper bag and hands it to his daughter as she plays in them she scares off the birds. She has a look of glee in her eyes. She likes the reaction the birds give her so she chases them to the lake. Her father rushes to get her, as she passes me she stop and says, “hello.”ImageImageImage