The Phoenix Irish Bar’s days might be numbered — and it is potentially being replaced with 20 market-rate studios being labeled as “SROs.”
It’s a trend that people like Sam Moss, of the Mission Housing Development Corporation, have been seeing lately.
“I think there’s a place for units, but I don’t know that we should be calling them single room occupancy rooms,” Moss said. It’s unclear they use the SRO designation — usually defined as housing for low-income residents who share a bathroom and kitchen.
The plans for the Phoenix are to raze the 59-year-old building and erect a six-story, mixed-use building with 20 “Single Room Occupancy” rooms in the upper floors.
The schematics show that there’s very little “low-income” in the works: instead, each unit would have its own small kitchen, a single bathroom and a large living space. Some of the units would have a washer and dryer. Similar units in the city are listing for north of $2,000, and there’s even a penthouse unit and rooftop balcony. About 350 square feet of commercial space will take up the ground floor.
Each unit will be between 279 and 331 square feet of space. Instead of a parking garage, each unit has designated bicycle storage.
The owner of the building, Eugene Power, could not be reached for comment. The project is being designed by SIA Consulting, an architecture firm that has worked on several projects in the city. Phone calls to the agency were not immediately returned.
Diana Martinez, the Program Manager of the Mission SRO Collaborative, said that she has definitely seen a push to use the SRO label for upscale, formerly low-income rooms for more affluent renters. She’s even heard of developers converting SROs into refurbished, higher-end hotels.
But a new SRO hotel hasn’t been built in her time, and the units being designed for 811 Valencia might not even qualify as SROs, because they have stoves and kitchen appliances.
“There’s only one other case I heard that ended up getting scrapped, it was so egregious,” she said, adding that the developer ran into complications with the city and the community.
Refurbishing an SRO isn’t a new idea. In 2016, 2072 Mission Street was bought and refurbished as a new “residential hotel” called Starcity. Residents there were paying up to $2,100 a month.
When Michelle Meyer, the current manager of Phoenix Bar, took over a month ago, she began to hear rumors: patrons would come in and mumble about the potential closure of the Irish bar.
“People here talk all types of stuff,” Meyer said.
As it turns out, the rumors were true. In March, seven employees were suddenly fired without reason by the Phoenix’s owner, Eugene Power. One of the employees said the business might have been losing money. All of the employees fired were women, which sparked a guerrilla campaign to boycott the Phoenix.
Meyer is keeping her ears open. Whether the plans move ahead doesn’t bother her. Either way, she shrugs, construction won’t happen for a while, and if adding more housing to the city means losing her job, she’s fine with it.
“We need more housing,” she said. “If that’s how it’s going be, that’s how it’s going to be.”