First came the Beast on Bryant. Now there’s a feat on Florida.
A nine-story, 100-percent affordable housing complex with 130 homes and a Carnaval arts space officially opened at 681 Florida St. today, eight years after Mission activists first rallied for affordable housing on the site — and against the market-rate project next door.
The site, dubbed the “Beauty on Bryant” by some, is one-half of a large residential block: On the other half is 2000 Bryant St., a fully market-rate project that engendered opposition eight years ago and months of delay from anti-gentrification activists. Mission groups had dubbed that development the “Beast on Bryant.”
The market-rate complex was approved in 2016 after a compromise with activists: It could be built, but a portion of its land would be donated to the city for future affordable housing. The market-rate half was completed last year.
At Thursday’s ceremony, former critics of the market-rate project were pleased: Residents and representatives of developers Mission Economic Development Agency (which was heavily involved in fights against 2000 Bryant St.) and the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation spoke about welcoming needy families into their homes.
“We do this for the joy and the emotion of the folks that are actually living here that been waiting for housing,” said Jose Garcia, program manager at MEDA.
Of the 130 affordable homes, 39 will go to formerly homeless residents as “permanent supportive housing.”
Dolores Romero, 77, said she had waited for more than a decade for the chance to live in an affordable unit.
Romero has lived and worked in the Mission for 35 years, in an apartment with three flights of stairs. In 2008, she was diagnosed with cancer and, too weak to climb to her apartment every day, decided to apply for housing that fit her needs.
She won an apartment in 2022, after 14 years on the waitlist.
Garcia said Romero “feels like a queen. It’s exactly what I do this for.”
The project was a collaboration between the Mayor’s Office of Housing, the nonprofit developers, and other funders. On Thursday, the building entrance was festooned with colorful balloons that highlighted the multi-hued floral mural gracing 681 Florida’s facade.
“I think it’s become a really beautiful project as a result of that partnership,” added Colleen Ma, the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation’s project manager.
Ma added that the ground-floor Carnaval art space would be a welcome addition in a neighborhood that has lost arts and light manufacturing spaces. The ground floor will be zoned for “PDR” or “production, distribution, and repair,” a zoning definition used in San Francisco’s eastern neighborhoods that has sometimes given way to housing and offices.
The original sites where the now-demolished buildings stood had 50,000 square feet of PDR space. Its developer, Nick Podell, proposed 11,000 square feet in his plan, but, following community opposition, he and the Planning Commission bumped that up to 23,000 square feet in 2016.
Initially, Podell had proposed demolishing seven buildings along Bryant to build an 186-unit market-rate building. One of the tenants at risk was the eclectic arts space Cellspace, which is now permanently closed.
Community activists decried the plan, part of a wave that targeted almost every market-rate development proposed in the neighborhood at the time. The largest among them received inventive monikers: The “Monster on Mission,” the “Titanic Mess on South Van Ness,” the “Fright on Folsom” and the “Beast on Bryant.” A smaller project nearby was even dubbed the “Baby Beast.”
Instead, following community opposition and a negotiation between Podell and the city, Podell agreed to donate the land where 681 Florida St. now sits to develop the project.
In addition, Podell vowed to make 30 percent of the 186-unit property on Bryant below-market-rate housing, bringing the total affordable percentage to 41 percent.
“It’s among a handful of projects that will deliver that,” Podell said at the time.
Today, seven years after the agreement, that work has finally culminated in homes. “This is a full circle for me, and very emotional,” Garcia said. He understood the value of affordable housing, he said, given his parents live at an affordable complex. “For me, it’s an honor to be able to bring 130 units to the community.”