A vacant Walgreens building with graffiti on it may become affordable housing.
1979 Mission St.

The planned affordable housing project near 16th Street BART dubbed the “Marvel in the Mission” could be even more marvelous than previously expected, according to city documents. 

While previous plans imagined the oddly shaped parcel at 1979 Mission St. would host some 330 affordable units, the city is asking potential developers to think bigger — specifically, some 120 units bigger.

“The site has significant development opportunity with capacity for more than 450 units in at least two buildings … possibly three,” stated a document from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development released Thursday. The office is seeking developers to build out the project. 

The city envisions one- to three-bedroom units for low-income families earning a maximum of 80 percent area median income, or $115,300 for a family of four. The city also suggested building studios for formerly unhoused people on the parcel near Capp Street, and reserving some homes in the project for those with HIV. 

If built, the project would be the second-largest affordable housing complex in the Mission District, behind the 510-unit Potrero Yard project.

The 16th and Mission site is massive, encompassing nearly 60,000 square feet currently occupied by a vacant Walgreens and portion of the BART plaza. It has long harbored homeless encampments, and more recently unpermitted street vendors peddling shampoos, cheap makeup and other questionably gotten goods.

A previous attempt by market-rate developer Maximus Real Estate Partners to develop 331 homes, of which roughly 50 would have been affordable, was dashed after community pushback against the “Monster in the Mission.” 

As word spread of Maximus misrepresenting the project’s affordability and funneling money into a lobbying entity, opposition hardened, and the group ditched the site and put it up for sale in 2020. In 2021, the city acquired 1979 Mission to fulfill the affordable requirements of another contentious housing deal related to a market-rate project in SoMa

A decade after Maximus bought the site, a plan for affordable housing is inching forward. 

On Thursday, the city housing department officially opened a Request for Qualifications, an application the city uses to pick a developer for a project. The best proposal will be by a developer with proven experience who agrees to meet all requirements outlined by the city, including a commitment to build homes for the formerly homeless, and to work with BART, since part of the parcel intersects with the 16th Street station. 

Stronger preference is for a developer who “maximizes” the sprawling 57,325 square-foot site. To achieve this, the mayor’s housing department envisions developers using the State Density Bonus to increase the number of homes and state streamlining measures to speed up the permitting process. 

Mission Local reached out to several affordable housing developers Thursday to see if they were throwing their hat in the ring, but they declined to comment or were not immediately available. Mercy Housing, an affordable developer with multiple San Francisco projects under its belt, is “not sure” if it will apply, said president Doug Shoemaker in an email. 

Applications for the Request for Qualifications are due Sept. 29, and the city will pick a development team by mid-December.

Still, “we are several years away from starting construction, which is why identifying an interim use is ideal for these kinds of sites,” said Anne Stanley, spokesperson for the mayor’s housing department in an email. 

Indeed, controversial plans to build a village of 60 “tiny homes” for the homeless on the plaza — which would remain at the site only until the affordable complex is built — are well underway, per a Thursday email from Emily Cohen, spokesperson for the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. According to planning documents, the interim tiny homes will be “modular” units with two private rooms each, and two bathroom and shower trailers will be on site. 

While the housing department couldn’t estimate the number of applications it expected, Stanley reiterated that the winner will “ultimately deliver on a project that is responsive to the unique historical and cultural context of the site.”

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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  1. Thanks for the update Annika, interesting and as usual, the details of the RFQ raises lots more questions into what will be a long process. The City needs to get this once in a lifetime opportunity right for the community, as this is really the heart of the Mission. In spite of much recent history to the contray, I remain hopeful. There is no reason for such a vital part of the neighborhood to be so neglected, and as the “owners” of the space the City and it’s elected leaders bear the full responsibility for its beneficial use for all and the proper stewardship of the land.

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  2. A tiny home community next to an elementary school/residential neighborhood is a TERRIBLE idea. Most of the residents and parents of the children of Marshall Elementary are strongly against this proposal especially given that the same tiny home arrangement at 37 Gough is a filthy disaster. SFPD is telling residents that they are too busy to police the area- and should do it ourselves. Are we to rely on Urban Alchemy (who continues to have dodgy incident involving guns and knives) to “police” this site? This neighborhood is already under pressure from hordes of dodgy street vendors on Mission Street– Drug sales and use at 16th st. BART and a block of human feces and filth on the 16th/17th block of capp Street. This neighborhood is really at the breaking point! SF Homeless Commission– Stop Sh*tting in our neigborhood!

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  3. I’d love to see this happen, and optimistic about tiny homes as a short-term activation as well. Just to note, based on current plans, 450 units would make this the *second*-largest affordable housing development in the Mission, following the redeveloped Potrero Yard, planned to include about 500 affordable homes (half of them “workforce,” or middle-income, housing).

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