By Thomas Pendergast
The Sunset District is getting another recreation center for senior citizens thanks to a donation from a local family and SF Supervisor Katy Tang’s acquiring about half a million dollars from the SF Recreation and Park Department (RPD).
Tang has long been aware that senior citizen services are not meeting the demand in her district, according to her legislative aide, Ashley Summers.
“Through the Sunset Blueprint process a lot of people talked about more resources for seniors,” Summers said. ”Through the budget process Supervisor Tang was able to get some funding to expand the clubhouse through the Recreation and Park Department, however, that didn’t really pan out.”
Originally, the existing South Sunset Senior Center at 40th Avenue and Vicente Street was to be expanded, but that plan fell through even after Tang managed to get the money for it.
But she was not ready to give up just yet.
“With a high population of seniors in the Sunset, we need to ensure they have adequate services to support their day to day needs,” Tang said.
About that same time the Kwok family stepped up and donated a small, two-story house at 3133 Taraval St., between 41st and 42nd avenues in the Outer Sunset, changing the whole situation.
The RPD then put out a Request For Proposals and Self-Help for the Elderly, a non-profit organization that runs a number of operations serving senior citizens around the City, was awarded the funds for the new senior center.
The house has been sitting vacant for about five years. The proposal is to convert the 1,740-square-foot, two-story single-family dwelling into a community center for seniors managed by Self-Help for the Elderly. The project proposes a 1,500-square-foot, two-story rear addition, giving the building a total size of 3,240 gross square feet. An existing garage door will be removed and replaced with double doors, providing access to the facility directly from street level.
The community center will provide senior services for Outer Sunset and Parkside district residents including a meal program, activities, education and wellness services and legal and citizenship classes. The proposed facility will also have an outdoor rear yard area.
The operating hours will be Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We’re keeping the building height the way it is. We’re keeping the building width the way it is,” said Anni Chung, executive director of Self-Help for the Elderly. “From the street, nothing will appear to have changed because we’re expanding into the back yard.”
The project is still in the early stages, having been granted a Conditional Use Permit from the SF Planning Department on Sept. 13.
“We are in the second phase of bidding out our project to a general contractor,” Chung said. “It’s a relatively small project.”
She said although the South Sunset Senior Center has been there for decades, the senior population in District 4 has grown larger than its capacity to handle them all.
“That’s why this Taraval Street site, which is a few blocks from our Vicente Street location, will be ideal to help us catch the overflow,” Chung said. “In the Sunset area seniors are very underserved. There are just not enough senior services for all of the seniors who live in the Sunset.”
Because the building on Taraval Street has two floors, the senior center will be able to offer multiple services at the same time, such as classes in English or exercise classes, with its smaller rooms being where people can enjoy hobbies of various sorts. A ping pong table is also on the agenda.
“In all of our other centers we have one of those ping pong tables that can fold up. Ping pong is such a good exercise for the elderly. Once we do all of the renovation and settle that, I’m sure we’ll survey the seniors as to what activities they would like to start right away and we’ll go get some funding. Like karaoke, that’s number one because they all love singing and music is very, very good for the seniors,” she added.
Because the senior center is run by Self-Help, it does not have to abide by limitations imposed by the Recreation and Park Department.
“With Rec. and Park, we usually start about 9 a.m. and the seniors leave before 2 p.m. because children’s programs are coming in right after the seniors program,” said Chung. “But, at Taraval we will be able to stay there for the whole day.”
Although the site is being expanded into the back yard area of the Taraval Street building, there will still be room for seniors to get involved with planting and maintaining a garden.
Chung said they are hoping to get the architects and construction plans finished soon, and they are anticipating construction will be completed by the end of 2019.
“We’ll open, hopefully, by Chinese New Year, maybe February of 2020,” Chung said.
The $500,000 from Tang’s office is a start toward the construction and supplies, but Self-Help will be soliciting donations to complete the project.
“If we do a little bit of fundraising, let’s say for furniture and equipment and whatnot, I’m pretty sure the community will be supportive. So, I’m confident that we’ll be able to complete the project,” Chung said.