A 157-unit affordable housing project at 1950 Mission St. ceremonially broke ground Monday evening to the cheers of community members and the beat of an Aztec blessing.

“We promised we would be an anchor in the community, and we promised that we would have support for anyone who needed it,” said Sam Moss, the executive director of Mission Housing Development Corporation, speaking about the 48-year-old organization’s original mission. “This is what that looks like.”

The project, being developed by Mission Housing and BRIDGE Housing, will include 155 residential units for low-income families, with 25 percent of the units reserved for formerly homeless families. Twenty-five percent of the units will be reserved for people living in District 9 or within a half-mile of the site, per the city’s “neighborhood preference” program. (Two of the 157 units the will be for the building’s management.)

The dwelling units will be spread across two buildings — one five stories and the other nine stories — on the 36,398-square-foot site between 15th and 16th on Mission. The ground floor will provide space for nonprofits such as Mission Neighborhood Centers, PODER, Lutheran Services, and the Mission Housing resident services department.

It is expected to be complete by late 2020, and will cost an estimated $105 million. This is Mission Housing’s second 100-percent affordable project to break ground in the neighborhood, behind the 82-unit project at 490 South Van Ness, also being co-developed with BRIDGE.

“Today we celebrate the rebirth of Mission Housing as the first developer in the Mission,” said Marcia Contreras, Mission Housing’s deputy executive director, pointing to the celebration’s motif, a phoenix.

The day was a symbolic moment for the nonprofit developer, which, indeed, rose from the ashes. For more than a decade it struggled to become an active player in San Francisco development, after it was defunded by the city and lost the credibility it needed to win local projects.

“There were people in this city that defunded Mission Housing,” said Roberto Hernandez, a prominent community figure whom Mayor London Breed introduced as “the Mayor of the Mission.” “They didn’t want Mission Housing to be around no more.”

He credited Contreras and Moss for rebuilding the struggling institution.

Hernandez also spoke about the site’s past as a location of the RAP program, which helped at-risk youth in the neighborhood, and, later, the Phoenix Continuation High School that closed in 2002. After years of sitting abandoned, the site in 2015 became San Francisco’s first Navigation Center — meant to guide the homeless into permanent housing.

“This is a healing ground,” Hernandez said.  

The Mission District currently has eight fully affordable projects in the pipeline, four of which — including 1950 Mission — have broken ground. Demolition has begun on a 143-unit project at 1990 Folsom St., and two more at 681 Florida St. and 3001 24th St., respectively, are on the way. A 12-story tower with 63 affordable condos at 2205 Mission St. is still awaiting approval.

The project at 1950 Mission was awarded to Mission Housing and BRIDGE in 2015, and was the first to be awarded in the neighborhood in a decade.

“We’re just getting started on making sure we’re making an investment in the future of San Francisco,” Mayor Breed said, “because we know we have not done our fair share of not only building enough affordable housing in San Francisco — but building enough affordable housing for families.”

Read more about Mission Housing’s journey here.   

Project view from Wiese St. Courtesy of Mission Housing.

Courtesy of Mission Housing.

Ariel view of 1950 Mission. Courtesy of Mission Housing.

Mission People video by Lulu Orozco.