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'Thoughtful Growth' Advocacy Group Launches In Upper Haight

A new voice has joined the Upper Haight's ongoing conversation about housing and development: Haight Ashbury Neighbors for Density was formed to promote "thoughtful growth and better public transit," according to its mission statement.

Organized quietly earlier this winter, the group was formed by three local renters: Phillip Kobernick, Nicole Lindler, and Corey Smith.

"Big picture," Kobernick said, "we’re neighbors that want to see more housing and better transit in our neighborhood. We want San Francisco to be more accessible and inclusive to all."

Kobernick, who's lived in the area for six years, said the group was founded to promote a more aggressive pro-growth platform than is supported by groups like the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association and Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council.

"For me," Kobernick said, "I love cities in general and San Francisco specifically and I see where we are falling short and losing our character of being a welcoming city by refusing to grow."

While the group hasn't taken solid positions on many issues yet, some of the projects it's supporting include the affordable housing development slated for 730 Stanyan St. and the new 400 Divis proposal.

"I want our neighborhood to be more welcoming and supportive of housing ... and not choose to exclude more families in need of housing for vague reasons of 'character'," Kobernick said.

But that kind of rallying cry is a red flag for some locals who remain wary of  speculative housing developers.

Calvin Welch, who's spent decades in the Haight advocating for affordable housing and cautious development, expounded on some of the problems with what he characterizes as "fact-free development policy."

Welch said an unguarded pro-development approach "ignores the fact that increases in density, while increasing developer profits, does not increase affordability unless such increases in density are statutorily linked to increase affordability," because higher housing density also raises land (and thus housing) prices.

"What is needed in a hot real estate market like San Francisco is market controls," Welch said, such as "rent control; strong local land use control; maximum local funding for permanently affordable housing development and acquisition; and taking as many units off the private—by nature speculative—housing market and increasing 'social' ownership of as many housing units as possible."

To meet the people behind HAND, join them on March 27th for a community meeting at Park Branch library.

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