Dozens of community members attended an informational meeting about a 130-unit affordable housing project coming to the Mission. Photo by Laura Waxmann

Some 60 people, including whole families, turned out for the first in a series of community outreach meetings concerning the construction of a 130-unit affordable housing project at 681 Florida St. that could break ground in Spring 2019.

People were there to learn about applying for the spaces and to make suggestions on the use of its community space.  

“They are actually calling the community out to see what needs to be twisted or fixed,” said Nayelly Ayala, a resident of 24th and Florida streets, at the Tuesday evening meeting held in the community room of Mosaica, an adjacent family and senior apartment complex at 680 Florida St. and one of the early mixed-income developments in the Mission.  “This is nice because usually its just ‘build it, build it, build it’ – and you don’t get feedback. We are the ones living in this area.”

Roger Gula, one of two architects of the design firm Mithun/Solomon tasked with designing the 100 percent affordable development, said that if interest grows, “We will have to get a bigger room.”

Those who attended Tuesday’s meeting were counseled on their eligibility for below market rate housing and assisted with filling out applications. They were told that the application process for 681 Florida St. will begin some six months before construction completion, which is set for Summer 2020.

Along with representatives from the project’s non-profit developers, the Mission Economic Development Agency and the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, the architects presented preliminary design plans for 681 Florida St. and sought input from those whom it will serve.

“Families need open spaces,” said Gula, adding that the architects aimed to address this need by incorporating a courtyard into the building’s second floor as well as a rooftop deck and community area with “views of downtown.”

The nine-story development is slated to bring 130 below-market rate units ranging from studios to three-bedroom apartments to the Mission, of which 30 percent will be set aside to house formerly homeless families.

Another important aspect in the project’s design is accessibility to supportive services – such as case management services – that will be located within the building.

“The people that need that extra bit of help have to feel like they are connected to everything but also have the choice…. to navigate privately or publicly,” said Gula. “Sometimes you want to know that what you’re doing is just you and your social worker.”

The building will come complete with a community room, a receptionist, storage space for some 120 bicycles, and a rooftop deck and laundry access, as well as 10,000 square feet of Production Distribution Repair space that will be used to house local arts and community organizations on its ground floor.

Following a 20 minute presentation, attendees were directed to break off into groups to give their  input on a variety of issues concerning the project, including access to transportation in the area and their preferred use of the art space planned for the development’s ground floor.

Members of local art organizations attended the meeting to help inform the space’s use and design.

“We are one of the organizations that is at risk of being displaced because we don’t have a long term lease in place,” said Ani Rivera, executive director of the Mission’s Galeria de La Raza, who attended the meeting with inquires about the art spaces. “So we are looking at opportunities that could provide us with options to stabilize and find a new home and allow us to stay.”

The project’s developers will ultimately be tasked with choosing tenants for the art space. Gula said that the architects are designing the the space in preparation for variety of uses and organizations – from small art galleries to a large dance studio.

Representatives of the Mission Economic Development Agency encouraged community members to vote on the use of a 10,000 square-foot designated art space at 681 Florida St. Photo by Laura Waxmann

“It’s a flexible space and whoever comes in can do a variety of different things if they wanted to,” said Gula.

“It’s giant – it’s 21-foot ceilings and spans an entire block from Florida to Bryant streets,” said Logan Kelley, the other architect on the project, about the proposed PDR space. The design will include windows providing “visibility from all three sides of the building,” he said.

“If you take the arts of the Mission district and put it on display, hopefully that will activate interest in those arts,” said Kelley. “Our idea is to show the culture of the Mission off.”

The affordable housing project is part of a larger project of mostly market-rate development between 18th and 19th streets on Bryant Street and came after months of negotiations between community groups, the city and the developer Nick Podell.

“Over 8,000 Latinos have been displaced from the Mission in the last decade,” said Leslie Palaroan, project manager at MEDA. The organization’s vision for 681 Florida St., she said, is to address that displacement of “low-income families and individuals in the Mission by providing supportive housing.”

Those who attended the meeting said they were happy their voices were being heard throughout the process.

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