Owner of Mission property that burned wants to put in housing

A fire in San Francisco's Mission District that displaced 29 people over the weekend could lead to new housing if the owner of one of the damaged properties gets his way.

The damage from the fire is raising concerns in a neighborhood where gentrification has become a major issue.

The building that housed the Rolling Stock Tire Shop on the corner of 16th Street and Shotwell has been in property owner James Albera's family for decades.

"It's terrible. It's been in the family since 1960. I worked here 35 years. It was a car dealership for all those years. It's like losing a family member," said Albera.

Flames engulfed the tire shop yesterday morning sending plumes of smoke that were visible throughout the city.

Fire investigators were at the site earlier Monday, but there's still no word yet on how the fire started.

The fire left the tire shop and neighboring apartment building in ruins. The tire shop will have to be demolished. KTVU asked property owner Albera what is next for that site.

"I'd like to go residential with stores on the bottom," said Albera.

That's exactly what many on social media predicted might happen, with many speculating the fire would clear the way for high-end condos.

The 29 displaced residents resided in the neighboring apartment building, according to the Red Cross. Six of those displaced are children.

The Red Cross is putting those tenants up in hotels and connecting them with services and agencies that can help long term.

But the Red Cross says it will be tough to find them affordable housing in the city, much less the mission.

"Some might be able to stay in the Mission. Others may not. The important thing is they find shelter," said Valerin Lopez of the Red Cross
Supervisor David Campos has been fighting against gentrification in the Mission.

"I heard that. For the past few months, we have been dealing with that kind of speculation," said Campos when asked about the possible development of the site after the fire. "That's something we take seriously. We work closely with the fire department to make sure very fire is properly investigated."

The owner of the property says his plan would add housing to spot where there hasn't been any.

"Being a property owner you have to get as much as you can from your investment," said Albera. "Yeah, it would be improving the area. This was an old building. I'm going to miss it, but that's the way it goes."

KTVU was unable to reach the owner of the apartment building next door, but authorities said it will be at least 18 months before it is back on line.
Whether the tenants can find an affordable place in San Francisco for that long, will be a challenge.

"It is rent controlled housing. And finding something comparable is very challenging," said Campos.

Sunday's fire was the eighth residential fire in the Mission this year. So far, none of them have been determined to be arson.