Thanks to new city funding, two District 9 developers will develop long-vacant sites — at Laguna Honda on the west side of San Francisco and on Mission Street — into affordable housing.
Affordable-housing developer Mission Housing received $8 million to buy the Laguna Honda parking lot at 250 Laguna Honda Blvd., a stone’s throw from Clarendon Avenue, and turn it into homes for low-income seniors and families. Lutheran Social Services is also a partner.
While the project is in its early stages, Mission Housing executive director Sam Moss said 115 homes are planned, which will be a mix of studios and three-bedrooms.
“It’s taken courage to stand up for true housing equity and justice. What that looks like is high-quality affordable housing,” he said.
State housing officials have long urged more affordable development in District 7 and the Westside. Historically, virtually all the city’s affordable housing has been built on the east side, particularly in the Tenderloin and Mission. State housing officials criticized that reality, citing studies that show concentrating low-income housing in certain areas widens income inequality.
The city also funded Bernal Heights Development Center to pursue a seven-story project with affordable housing and ground-floor retail at 3300 Mission St. at 29th, the site of the 3300 Club and Single-Room-Occupancy units above at the Graywood Hotel, which burned in 2016. The development center received $6.5 million for the project.
Last week the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development issued five Notice of Funding Availability awards, which are intended to help nonprofits buy underutilized sites for affordable housing. The money finances the purchase and pre-development costs necessary to get permitting.
Besides Laguna Honda and 3300 Mission St., the city awarded other nonprofit developers money to build housing in the Sunset, Potrero Hill, and Alamo Square. In total, the five projects will add 550 affordable units to San Francisco’s housing stock. Depending on state financing, projects could break ground as early as 2026 and lease in 2028.
Often proposing a plan and securing financing is half the battle to making housing a reality. In fact, affordable senior housing proposed in Forest Hill was killed after residents and Supervisor Norman Yee disapproved of its location on a steep hillside. Nearby residents worried the development as planned could threaten homes above. An engineering report agreed.
“Unlike the last attempt, we’re not touching the hill, not touching the church,” Moss said of 250 Laguna. “Just the parking lot.”
That may help stymy some neighbors, who were previously opposed. But, while Moss expects a battle with some residents over the project, he said the nonprofit is focusing its efforts on organizing those who support it. That’s in part how the developer encouraged residents to embrace more controversial projects, such as Kapuso at Balboa Park Upper Yard. The support of current D7 supervisor Myrna Melgar helps, too.
Just as eyebrow-raising is the Notice of Funding for the Sunset, slated at the Great Highway and helmed by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Center and Self-Help for the Elderly. When the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Center proposed the first 100-percent affordable housing building in the Sunset at 2550 Irving St., residents came out against it in full force.
For context, District 9 has 20 new 100-percent affordable housing projects, and District 6 has 17, per a city dashboard. District 7 has one, which is a 71-unit project at 1100 Ocean Ave. near City College.
“I look forward to more investments on the west side that allow us to expand family-friendly neighborhoods that serve the needs of our community,” Melgar said in a press release.
According to a recent survey, an overwhelming majority of San Franciscans — some 92 percent — named the lack of affordable housing as a top concern.
Regardless, the project is on firmer footing than its predecessors due to a shifting tide of housing policy. Thanks to California Assembly Bill 2162, signed into law in 2018, projects with a “minimum amount of supportive housing” can be built by-right, or without special city review. Similarly Senate Bill 35, signed into law in 2017, helps streamline affordable housing without restrictions.
Moss said, “The main difference is, we have leadership, like Melgar, MOHCD [the Mayor’s Office] and Mayor London Breed, that believes in building affordable housing in high-income neighborhoods.”
Moreover, he said, “Housing advocates for the last six years have worked hard to pass necessary laws that give people the ability to do the right thing.”
Notice of Funding Availability is also a more unique strategy to finance affordable housing projects that must compete for state money. The mayor’s office awarded the Sunset project $24 million, the Potrero Hill project $13 million, and the Alamo Square Park project $15 million.
“These investments advance MOHCD’s commitment to grow the pipeline of affordable housing in San Francisco,” the Mayor’s Office of Housing Director Eric Shaw said in a press release.
Despite the expansion to other areas in recent years, Moss underscored how Mission Housing is still focused on its home neighborhood. New units here can be freed up for Mission locals.
“We’re not leaving the Mission. It’s our home base. It is our family, and we love them,” Moss said. “It’s just that we see this opportunity, and we think the more housing in other neighborhoods the less people are competing for units in the Mission. But you gotta start somewhere.”