Nearly 200 people met at St. Anthony of Padua Church’s parish hall on Sunday afternoon during a standing-room-only gathering to support workable affordable housing for low-income seniors in the Mission District. Photo by Jennifer Cortez.

Dignity and respect were the main themes that emerged Sunday afternoon during a standing-room-only congregation, as community leaders demanded that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors deliver on the promise of truly affordable housing for low-income seniors in the Mission. 

The turnout at St. Anthony of Padua Church’s parish hall on 3215 César Chávez St. amazed organizers, and the uncomfortably warm room did not discourage the nearly 200 people — seniors, youth and clergy — who wanted to hear the stories of those affected. 

Last June, Casa Adelante, a 100 percent affordable, 94-unit housing project for seniors at 1296 Shotwell St., broke ground, after the community advocated for its construction for five years. 

The nine-story building is expected to be finished by mid-2020. Community leaders are asking for rent to be set at 30 percent of seniors’ income, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determines as fair market rent.

Presently, the rent at Casa Adelante is based on 50 percent of the area median income of $7,200 a month, meaning residents will be earning $3,600 a month maximum. But, since rents cannot be more than 50 percent of income, there is a minimum income as well, in the vicinity of around $2,000 a month — causing the housing project to be out of reach for nearly “70 percent of senior renters in San Francisco,” according to Faith in Action, a community-based organization. 

Olinda Orellana did not mince words when she stepped up to the podium to share her thoughts.

“If we do not get what we are asking for, we will be living on the streets very soon, because we do not have the money to pay for this,” she said in Spanish. 

Claro como el agua, said Esperanza Navas, one of the hosts of the event. “[It’s] clear as water. This is the reality. Here, we don’t filter ourselves. Here, we speak the truth. We know the pain. We know the suffering. We know that we can either eat or pay rent.” 

Overcome with emotion, Patrona Orellana, who has worked and lived in the city for more than 30 years, said she had hoped to apply to the Casa Adelante project, but later realized she would not be able to qualify with what she receives from her pension. 

“Who here has an income of $7,200 a month?” asked Deisy Camey, a parishioner of the church. 

The crowd responded with a loud chorus. “Nadie!” they said. “No one!” 

“Well,” continued Camey. “That’s why we are here. The city does not know exactly how we are living.” 

“Our rapidly growing senior population is among the most impacted and we urgently need solutions,” said District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar. Photo by Jennifer Cortez.

An additional testimonial was read on behalf of Raul Vazquez, who is currently hospitalized. A former baker at La Victoria, Vazquez has lived in San Francisco for more than 40 years. 

“I believed I lived in a sanctuary city,” he wrote, “but a sanctuary city does not exclude. A sanctuary is inclusive of everyone, including the elderly — who deserve to live with dignity.” 

The final speech came from Rosario Garcia, who said she wishes that they are able to live their remaining years in tranquility. “Please, help us,” she said. “We need it to move forward.” 

A set of questions was then posed to the public officials in attendance: Supervisor Gordon Mar, as well as Jen Low and Amy Beinart, legislative aides who represent Board President Norman Yee and Supervisor Hillary Ronen, respectively. 

“I understand that the housing affordability crisis and the displacement crisis is the biggest issue facing everyone in our city, in every district, in every community,” said Mar. “Our rapidly growing senior population is among the most impacted and we urgently need solutions.” 

And while he’s proud of the $600 million affordable housing bond slated for the November ballot, the largest affordable housing bond in the city’s history, “it’s not nearly enough for what we need.” 

He added that it is critical elected officials work with the community to ensure that the wealthy, as well as the booming tech and corporate sectors, pay their fair share in taxes. 

Referencing his proposal for the November ballot to increase the corporate tax on stock-based compensation for San Francisco-based companies, like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb, Mar said “it would create $100 million revenue every year that we could use to expand truly affordable housing for low-income seniors.”

Overcome with emotion, Patrona Orellana, who has worked and lived in the city for more than 30 years, said she had hoped to apply to the Casa Adelante project, but later realized she would not be able to qualify with what she receives from her pension. Photo by Jennifer Cortez.

Having taken care of his parents and aunts, and as the only senior on the Board of Supervisors, Yee relayed the message that he “knows full well what it means to have a home” and understands the concern of being displaced or exploited in the last years of life. 

“Only 12 percent of the housing pipeline is meant for seniors. We were completely floored,” said Low, speaking on behalf of the supervisor. “President Yee, as part of the housing bond that Supervisor Mar talked about, ensured that there was going to be a dedicated source within the housing bond for senior housing: $150 million of the $600 million will be for senior housing.” 

This is just a start, she said, for a problem that is systemic. 

Beinart, who is Ronen’s legislative aide, said her office is working alongside Yee’s on the Senior Operative Subsidy program that would lower rent for senior housing. 

“It came as a surprise to us to understand that the affordability level was higher than we had expected,” she said. “More importantly, higher than what was actually affordable higher to seniors in this district.”

She added that it’s urgent that the subsidy program is applied to Casa Adelente, as well as the next 45-unit housing project for seniors in the Mission. 

Nodding their heads, it was clear that the crowd gathered at the Catholic church’s parish hall — nearly two hours later and still standing-room-only — were in agreement. 

“We hope that [the public officials] don’t forget about the declarations made today,” said Navas, one of the co-hosts, at the conclusion of the event. “Because we won’t let them.” 

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26 Comments

  1. Problem on the westside was former senior housing areas like stonestown and parkmerced were over-run by SFSU-CSU expansionism, with zero recourse or evaluation of the gentrification by CSU of the backbone of senior housing on the westside.

    1. Parkmerced and Stonestown are both manged by the same company and are market rate housing. This article is about low income housing specifioically for seniors.

      1. Wrong Cray H Tubbe. Stonestown is now University Park North and is owned by the State. SF State University bought it in 2005. The rents for students, staff and faculty are lower than market rate – basically they have subsidized rent. That group is the only group allowed to rent there now. Those people who still live there and are families and seniors not affiliated with the University are not being evicted if they moved in before 2005 due to legalities. Also our rents are equivalent with those on rent control. Stonestown itself was rent controlled since it was built in 1949. Those people who moved in after the University bought it and are not faculty, staff or students are asked to leave when their lease is up – usually a year. About 1/3 of Park Merced is owned by SF State University and is student housing.

      2. Mr. Tubbe,

        Parkmerced had 1,400 rent-controlled units
        until David Chiu ‘compromised’ a deal which destroyed
        them all.

        David and Scott Wiener (how’s it go? … “‘i’ after ‘e’ exept afer ‘c’
        or when sounded as ‘a’ as in neighbor or weigh” … )

        I always get messed up on how to spell Scott’s last name.

        Anyway, Chiu and Wiener who went to Harvard Law together
        are a legal ‘hit’ team for Real Estate interests.

        These guys are wonderful opponents for me cause they’re both
        much smarter (and, I’m not dumb) …

        they’re much smarter and make me up my game.

        Still, you wonder what’s going thru the head of this pair and
        someone like Andrew Zacks who proudly make their money
        attacking the poor and elderly and disabled.

        There’s something missing in people like that.

        Parkmerced seems to attract them.

        Recall, it was once owned by the infamous, Leona Helmsley.

        Go Giants!

        h.

  2. How nice, old people who spent their entire lives to become dependent parasites. WHERE ARE ALL THE MANY THOUSANDS OF SUBSIDIZED HOMES, THiS NEVER ENDING HORDE OF PARASITES NEEDS ? Let the rich pay for everything! We had 50 years and could not be bothered to plan for our future. LET THE RICH PAY FOR OUR NEGLECT !

    1. Kevin, Its very difficult to read such harsh words towards an entire group of people you do not know.
      Consider the facts as they are i urge you. You certainly must know that people can work their whole lives, pay their way, as is what so many cite as the problem (” moochers), but still not have enough!!
      Why are amounts of dollars in the bank equalling a good person or a degenerate?
      The reality of existence is so much more than that reductive judgment.

      1. Nikki, while you are correct for some, you fail to take into account that many, if not most, don’t plan for the future. They do not save for years when they are not working. Many buy cars they cannot afford and eat out at restaurants constantly. Or take vacations that are well above their means. While we need to protect folks, we also need to shame those that could have saved for retirement but chose to spend their money frivolously. We all know these people. No matter what they have, they find a way to spend more.

        If every human in America made the same income, some of us would save for later in life and others would spend everything and be begging later in life. It happens even when everyone is given the same amount. Some people are just financial idiots.

        So, because of this, Kevin makes a blanket statement that seems harsh and includes many that could not save. But his statement does apply to a high percentage of people. If you are a financial idiot, you should suffer on some level for your stupidity.

        1. I’ve lived here a long time but I’ve never seen abuela driving her BMV on the way to Slanted Door every Friday night.

          Has it ever occurred to you that people just MIGHT not be paid well enough to save a great deal, despite working very hard for a very long time?

          Has it also not occurred to you that the real estate market here has grown exponentially? Like far beyond what anyone had anticipated? When I was a kid an entire Mission district home could be bought for $300k.

          Finally, I’m sure if any of these seniors were or are undocumented, that probably further added to the complexities of saving for retirement. I’m pretty sure most didn’t have a 401k lol

    2. The Federal Reserve debased their nest egg. According to Nobel Economist Milton Friedman, inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon. A $1 loaf of bread in your twenties is now $5. This is the result of deficit spending which the Fed participates in by printing money out of thin air, in order to stimulate the economy to create jobs for a-holes like you, after economic crashes by other a-holes on Wall Street.

  3. Can you clarify the numbers?

    Is the rent set to be 50% of AMI, i.e. 50% x $7200 = $3100 per month?

    Or 30% of 50% of AMI, i.e. 30% x 50% x $7200 = $1033 per month?

    For the “community leaders … asking for rent to be set at 30 percent of seniors’ income,” what do they want it to be 30 percent of? If the senior in question has no income — would it be 30% x $0 = $0?

    Or something else?

    1. My reading is your second example is the case, rent being $1033.

      As to your second point. There was a news article recently that some SF residents in public housing are paying $25 rent. It was in the news because the manager of the units proposed increasing it to $50. The proposal was rejected by the SF Housing Authority for being unaffordable.

      As you point out, the affordability targets aren’t completely rational. A single person qualified for SSI(welfare) in CA receives about $1000. After paying 30%, the remaining $700 is considered adequate disposable income. But another person receiving $1800 in Social Security or trust fund income and subsidized at 30% for rent would have $1260 disposable income. Both qualify for subsidy. But why is $700 disposable income adequate for the first person but inadequate for the second person?

    2. Rajiv —

      It’s closer to the latter. We’ve clarified that paragraph:

      Presently, the rent at Casa Adelante is based on 50 percent of the area median income of $7,200 a month, meaning residents will be earning $3,600 a month or less. But, since rents cannot be more than 50 percent of income, there is a minimum income as well, in the vicinity of around $2,000 a month — causing the housing project to be out of reach for nearly “70 percent of senior renters in San Francisco,” according to Faith in Action, a community-based organization. 

      Thanks for reaching out.

      JE

      1. Yes the rent will be about $1000 per month. That is way below market for a SF 1BR or Studio. $12,000 per year. But a senior with just $15,000 Social Security or SSI annual income can not possibly pay that.

        But attacking the local developer or the city for this is plainly wrong. These are federal rules. The pathetic SSI income is a national policy. Pick the right target.

    3. 50% of the median is 3600 max income with a 2000 min income…these are the people who qualify, they can pay no more than 50% of their income 1000-1800…

      The issue cited is that 70% of seniors are below that income…

  4. Your surprised by what they are demanding for rent!!!

    There’s has ALWAYS been a disconnect between the needs of our community and the powers to be. Case in point, MUNI is going up next month in price with no real promise to clean up and improve the service.

    1. M.P.R.–

      MUNI should have started raising prices in the 1970s. Instead, SF Citizens and Tourists enjoyed extremely low transit prices until the past 5 to 7 years. No one should be whining about paying an equal cost now.

  5. Strange that no one mentioned the City agency responsible for this fiasco: that would be the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. Shame on them for forcing this on the non profit developer.

  6. 1) Developer proposes housing development
    2) Community fights against size of housing development, saying it will cast shadows, cause parking problems, or something
    3) Developer reduces size of housing development and Community accepts
    4) Community finds out there isn’t enough housing, and wonders why

    1. You forgot some steps:
      5) Cynical politician says “I have a plan to raise $100 million for affordable housing!”
      6) Money if approved and surviving legal challenges, doesn’t become available for 5 years
      7) Construction begins 8 years after funding becomes available, after planning, community meetings, neighborhood politics, scale reduction, permits.
      8) Affordable housing opens 15+ years after 2019 meeting Padua Church’s parish hall.
      9) Cynical politician has moved on to new career
      10) Senior citizens who said they need subsidized housing are no longer among the living

  7. Affordable to who? This city needs all sorts of housing, yes. But it sure as hell seems the amount dedicated for low income citizens, especially seniors is tiny. Just wait, if you think the homeless is a problem now, what will you think when you see thousands of senior citizens begging for coins to pay for a night in a hotel?

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