When the development team for Tidewater Capital started internal talks about their community engagement process for the recently purchased 1028 Market Street project, they knew they wanted to break the mold. These first-time San Francisco home builders had heard about the painful experiences of past developers fighting with neighborhood community organizations and individuals Tidewater knew that to have a successful project they needed to engage with current residents, listen to their desires and concerns, and then deliver a great project for all stakeholders.
As part of ULI’s Housing The Bay Series, ULI held a panel discussion to discuss what worked for 1028 Market to successfully engage the community. As part of the panel, Tidewaters’ Impact and Engagement Director, Ilana Lipsett shared her experience. She mentioned that one of the key factors was to create a physical space where Tidewater could engage with and become part of the community as the project was being discussed and designed. Known as The Hall, the space was included food and drink options for lunch and dinner. The space kept the property active and meant a Tidewater team members were always on site to both engage with the community and understand how the neighborhood changed from morning to noon to night.
Tidewater also used the space to host a monthly community meeting every month for roughly 3.5 years. The meetings gave a regular forum to talk and learn from community members and ample time to build a real relationship and TRUST with the community. The investment of time and relationships meant the neighborhood felt Tidewater was genuinely invested in the community and its long term success.
Executive Director of Tenderloin Housing Clinic, Randy Shaw was on the panel as a representative of the neighborhood. Shaw has seen the neighborhood change over the last 30 years and was immediately impressed by Tidewater’s efforts. Located between two other housing developments, 1028 Market is part of an effort to revitalize, activate, and improve the surrounding neighborhoods of Central Market and the Tenderloin. Shaw echoed the sentiments of Tidewater, developing a trusting relationship with the community is what makes the process work. Developing that relationship has to be organic and authentic for it to work.
Marlo Sandler, a Project Manager with the San Francisco Planning Department, provided additional perspective on the success of the project. When she arrived at the Planning Department in 2013, he was struck by the backlog of unapproved projects that existed, due in part to the resistance of community organizations.
Tidewater’s unique proposal for The Hall and community engagement impressed Sandler and others at the Planning Department from the outset. The model clearly worked, and over the years her inbox has been flooded with questions about how the Tidewater model could be duplicated. Sander admits the physical space at The Hall was helpful, but another key was Tidewater’s attitude towards understanding the community that was so successful. Going forward, she hopes that the process will serve as inspiration for other developers and projects.
The evening closed with Brooke Ray Rivera, Executive Director of Build Public, leading a moderated discussion and taking questions from the audience. The conversation focused on the need for time in building trust, it is not something you can rush. Lipsett mentioned that in addition to the monthly community meeting Tidewater hosted over 100 happy hours and fundraisers for neighborhood charities at the Hall. Tidewater also plans to keep working with the community, as permanent neighbors, long after the new residents moved in. In the end, the panelist felt their wasn’t a magical formula for project approval. Simply caring about the community, doing right by community members, and creating a project that everyone can be proud of is what works.
By Corey Smith