Developers Hope to Squeeze More Units on Mission Affordable Housing Site

The empty lot at 490 South Van Ness Ave. that will hold up to 89 units of affordable housing. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

A Mission District-based non-profit housing developer and its partner have won the rights to develop up to 89 units of affordable housing at the corner of 16th Street and South Van Ness Avenue, the city announced on Thursday.

The site’s developers, however, said the 89-unit count was a maximum and could be lowered if too much time or costs is added to the project by pursuing more units.

The Mission Housing Development Corporation and Bridge Housing were picked by officials at the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development to build an eight-story complex at 490 South Van Ness Ave., a city-owned lot two blocks from the 16th Street BART Station.

The non-profit pair will build 24 percent more units than were permitted for the site after city officials requested that bidders maximize their unit count. The partnership at 490 South Van Ness will did so by removing a parking garage and adding one story to the building.

The project will be affordable to those making up to 60 percent of area median income, or $58,150 for a family of three. In line with city’s policy to prioritize homeless housing, 30 percent of the units will be reserved for formerly homeless families making up to 30 percent of area median income or $29,100 for a family of three.

The city’s neighborhood preference policy will ensure that 40 percent of the units go to residents of District 9 or those who live within a mile of the project.

“I’m really excited,” said Sam Moss, the executive director of Mission Housing. “I believe 16th and South Van Ness having 100 percent affordable family units will really activate that entire corner, and it’s something that I think that area has needed for a really long time.”

The 490 South Van Ness site was slated to become 72 units of market-rate housing but was purchased by the city last year for $18.5 million. Not including land acquisition, the total project cost is estimated to be $45 million, said Teresa Yanga, director of housing development at the Mayor’s Office of Housing.

Funding will come from a combination of city, state, and private sources, with some $10 million from San Francisco coffers, she said. That puts the city’s contribution at about $28.5 million.

As planned, it will rise to eight stories and break through the 68-foot height limit on the lot using the city’s density bonus for fully affordable housing projects. If the pursuit of the additional story is prohibitive in terms of cost and development time, Moss said it may be dropped.

The ground-floor space will be used by non-profits like Instituto Familiar de la Raza and Poder for programming, Moss said. In line with new affordable development in the city, and given its proximity to transit, it will have no parking on-site.

The area around the 16th Street BART Station is home to both low-income residents in single-room occupancy hotels and tenants in high-end condos. Two tech shuttle stops are on the same block as the project site, and homeless encampments line the streets just a couple blocks away.

New developments coming to the area promise to transform it in the next few years. A 380-unit market-rate project two blocks away that has for years been opposed by activists recently restarted, and a handful of smaller developments are planned for the northern part of Mission Street.

The area will also get most of the affordable housing units planned for the neighborhood. Three fully affordable housing projects will be built within a two-block radius of the project, bringing in over 500 below-market-rate units — 127 units at 2060 Folsom St., 140 units at 1990 Folsom St., and 157 units at 1950 Mission St.

Those are part of seven affordable projects that would bring some 750 below-market-rate units total to the Mission District in the next few years.

If all are approved, the area north of 16th Street will see at least six buildings rising to eight stories or more, four of them affordable.

The 490 South Van Ness project is the second project awarded to Mission Housing and its partners in the neighborhood in the last 15 months and the third city-wide. The organization won the rights to build the 1950 Mission site in 2015 and another 90 units in Balboa Park in October.

That comes after a decade of not building housing and is a boon for the non-profit developer, which manages 1,600 units in 38 buildings in San Francisco. It has competed with the Mission Economic Development Agency, a newcomer to affordable housing development, for other projects in the neighborhood, three of which MEDA has won.

Moss, for his part, was ebullient about the upcoming affordable housing projects planned for the neighborhood.

“We can start pointing to some hope for the residents of the Mission and the low-income working class tenants of this city that we are finally building a significant amount of units,” he said. “We’re working on some, MEDA’s building some. The whole Mission community is coming together.”

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