SF community fights to protect park named after Fil-Am Olympic hero

SAN FRANCISCO – A park named after a Filipino American who overcame adversity is overcoming hurdles itself.

Victoria Manalo Draves, for whom the park was dedicated, was a two-time gold medal Olympic diver for the United States.

Draves was discriminated against because of her Filipino ancestry but rose above it to fulfill a prestigious career.

And for the past year, Filipino Americans were protecting her park from being overshadowed by a new building project.

“So to see her again being cast a shadow upon her name again to me is a disrespect,” said Rudy Corpuz Jr., a Fil-Am community leader. “They didn’t look at the historical elements of her and so for me, I oppose this!”

After hearing numerous testimonies for and against the project, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission has rejected the housing project.

The proposed six-story, 10-unit development would have increased a shadow by only 0.07 percent a year. But the commissioners said the shadow would cover the park during its busiest times during the summer.

Golden Properties was the developer of the project and is owned by Sergio Iantorno, who has been criticized for using the Ellis Act to evict rent-control tenants.

The Ellis Act is a California law that allows landlords the right to evict tenants in order to “go out of business”.

Often, landlords sell their properties to real estate developers, who raise rental rates in the area.

While the proposed building over the park was a separate issue from the Ellis Act evictions, low income residents, including Filipinos, said that this was a victory because Iantorno would not profit from another building project.

“It’s important that the commission knows that it’s not just about all these technicalities but also a background of who they are,” said Ellis Act evictee Teresa Dulalas. “It’s about time we put a stop to this.”

During the hearing Atty. Ryan Patterson and Iantorno’s son Paolo explained to the commission that they tried to reach out to the community by offering to build an affordable two-bedroom unit along with a $25,000 donation to the park.

The community and their district supervisor, Jane Kim, said that Patterson and Iantorno failed to understand the real problem at hand.

“This is not about the money,” said Supervisor Kim. “It’s not about asking for more. The community really felt like this park was important, that it deserved our utmost protection as our only multi-use park.”

“Yes, we should build affordable housing but we should also build infrastructure that will help the livelihood of those residents,” said SOMCAN Director Angelica Cabande. “And that livelihood includes open space, jobs, community organizations, services, and more. This is a big victory for the South of Market and all the other neighborhoods that fighting for open space in our community and its not privatized.”

Balitang America requested to speak with Iantorno and Atty. Patterson following the hearing but they refused to comment.

You can contact Rommel Conclara at rommel_conclara@abs-cbn.com and follow him on Twitter @rommelconclara.

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  • Karen Nolan
    4 February 2015 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    I’d like to see people get worked up about this park becoming a huge homeless encampment. The shopping carts piled up at the entrance, the people camped out all over the lawn, smoking in the park. Grown adults sleeping in the toodler playground and the 2-3 feet of garbage left by the frint gate every morning. It’s not safe for the children and that is the reason this park was intended for…a safe place for the kids. It’s why everyone fought for years, attending meetings til midnight, going to the school district, Board of Supervisors meetings, etc. etc. It is a shame that this park has been taken over by the homeless and is not a safe place for the kids as it was intended.