By Hector Barajas

In 2015, San Francisco overwhelmingly voted (74.6% yes, 25.74% no) in favor of Local Measure A, a housing bond that authorized the City’s use of up to $310 million to fund affordable housing programs. Once plans were put in place for a new affordable housing project for low-income seniors in the affluent Forest Hill community, however, NIMBY residents took out their pitchforks.

The president of the Forest Hill Association labeled the project a “Russian gulag.” Other residents worried about how these “low income seniors would change the feel of the area.”

Ironic? How could this happen? By every indicator, the wealthy community of Forest Hill qualifies as a Democratic paradise. It’s an area with $1–1.4 million homes, single-digit Republican registration and where 78% voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but just 14% for Donald Trump.

Why, if they voted in favor of the affordable housing bond, are they opposing its implementation in their community? 

Could it be that being progressive is only a one-way proposition, never something to apply to your own neighborhood?


Here is what the progressive, well-off Forest Hill residents had to say:

“We don’t know if there are going to be sex offenders living there.” “What resources are you going to provide to make sure my 11-year-old girl is safe?” another asked the Christian Church Homes representatives.

Jamie Wong, a Sunset District native who has lived in Forest Hill for nearly a decade, said she is worried about the development destabilizing the hillside and changing the area’s character.

“As a parent, I am concerned about people with mental illness and drug addictions,” she said. “I want my kids to be able to play outside — that’s why we bought a house here.”

Other residents openly said the complex would bring with them the sort of quality-of-life problems that neighborhoods located west of Twin Peaks are largely immune from.


There were other hateful remarks:

Mark Watts, president of the Forest Hill Association Board of Directors, said he supports affordable housing on the site, but that the initial proposal “looks like a Russian gulag.”

Watts added, “People are afraid of formerly homeless people wandering around the neighborhood attacking our kids and pushing our elderly down. That is not something I am worried about, but that is what people are afraid of.” 


Perhaps some soul-searching is in order for the gentry and elite residents of Forest Hill that are protesting the arrival of Measure A affordable housing in their midst. From both their actions and their words, they appear to have strayed far from the Democratic ideal bandied about in political speeches and commercials. Outsiders might even consider them deplorable.


Hector Barajas is a partner at Merino, Barajas & Allen and an on-air analyst for Univision and Telemundo. The Hearst Corporation recognized Hector as one of the 20 Latino Political Stars nationwide and Campaigns and Elections magazine named him one of the top 50 influencers in the United States. 


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Links to quotes:


Precinct information derived by entering the address of the proposed site (250 Laguna Honda Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94116) in the County of San Francisco precinct look-up. Precinct number: 9712. 2015 ballots cast for Local Measure A: (Precinct 9712, pg. 143-144). 2016 general election results:  (11/29/16, 5:00 PM, precinct 9712, pg. 20).