By Matthew Hose
San Francisco officials have unveiled plans to build a seven-story apartment building with 100% affordable housing on Irving Street at 26th Avenue.
The development, which is planned at 2550 Irving St. – currently the site of the Police Credit Union – could include up to 100 housing units at various levels of affordability, with 20% of the units reserved for families currently experiencing homelessness.
At a Jan. 23 virtual meeting, Sunset residents had polarized opinions about the proposed project, with some raising concerns about the building’s height, congestion in the neighborhood and the demographics, while others offered full support.
The project comes as the City works to develop more housing in areas that have fallen behind in production, according to Jonathan Gagen, a project manager at the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.
At the end of 2019, the mayor’s office offered $30 million in funding from a 2019 voter-approved affordable housing bond to create housing for seniors and low-income families in Districts 1, 2, 4, 7 and 8. The City then committed $15 million from that pool to the Irving Street project and selected the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC) to build and operate the complex. The other $15 million grant went to a project to build senior housing on Geary Boulevard in the Richmond District.
At the Jan. 23 meeting, District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar pointed out that Sunset District residents submitted 5,000 applications for affordable housing last year, but less than 50 of those applicants received placements, and all of those placements were outside the district.
“It’s literally like winning the lottery,” Mar said. “We need the courage to do better for our community.”
The Irving Street project, which officials expect to begin construction on in 2023 and open for occupancy in 2025, would contain studio, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units. Some units would be set aside for households that earn less than 30% of the area median income (AMI), some for households earning less than 50% AMI and some for households earning less than 80% AMI, with a maximum earning cap of $102,500 for a family of four in the highest-rent units. Additionally, up to 40% of units could be reserved for people who already reside in the Sunset. The complex would also include ground-floor retail space and have just 11 parking spaces under current plans.
The Police Credit Union is downsizing and will be moving into the space formerly occupied by Goodwill a block away on 25th Avenue and Irving Street.
Katie Lamont, the senior director of housing development at the TNDC, said at the virtual meeting that although the project itself doesn’t have to come to a vote for approval, they want to engage the community on the design and impact of the building. Lamont added that the current proposal included the tallest possible building with the most possible units, and the numbers could change depending on the feedback they got.
Officials will hold two more engagement meetings in 2021 before sharing a draft design in March, according to Lamont.
However, Lamont noted that they would need to take advantage of the public funding that is available.
“The need for affordable housing is great and the resources – especially public dollars – are limited,” Lamont said. “So, with every opportunity to build affordable housing, we look to provide as many homes as we can at each opportunity.”
The Jan. 23 meeting did not have a public comment period. Three-hundred people were allowed into the meeting before the Zoom-imposed limit was reached, though, and the chat box quickly filled up with hundreds of comments for and against the project.
Several people expressed concern about the height of the building, while others objected that the project did not have enough parking for the area. Several commenters focused on the fact that 20% of units that would be reserved for homeless families.
“We do not object (to) living with law-abiding low-income folks, but no one wants to live next to mentally ill and drug addicts in this neighborhood,” wrote Ahmed Perinchery. “(This) special population is best congregated in a location that will not pose (a) threat to a dense neighborhood like Sunset.”
Noah Stroe, a resident who said he lives on the same block as the proposal, said the seven-story structure would affect him significantly through shading, lack of parking and obstructing views.
“I have nothing against helping house my fellow citizens, but do it in a way that works for all,” Stroe wrote. “Put folks in units presently vacant. Build and remodel without changing the footprint of the existing building.”
On the same day as the virtual forum, a group of several dozen residents organized a protest outside the credit union, carrying signs with slogans like: “Sunset belongs to Sunset residents” and “Gordon Mar destroys our community.”
Late in the virtual meeting, Mar addressed the various concerns raised in the chat.
“These are very legitimate questions and concerns around height, bulk, parking design and which families are going to be able to take advantage of this opportunity, but there’s also been quite a bit of misinformation and scare tactics,” Mar said.
Addressing congestion, Lamont said they expected many people at the site will likely not own cars, and the TNDC would incentivize residents to walk, bike and use public transportation.
Many neighbors also wrote comments in support of the project.
“My family and I welcome future neighbors, even those who may be struggling with drug addiction and mental illness,” said Morgan Agnew, a resident at 21st Avenue and Judah. “I have two small children. God forbid, one day one of them may struggle with mental illness or substance abuse. If they do, I hope they are treated compassionately and not assumed to be criminals.”
Nichole Wong, a resident of 46th Avenue and Ortega Street, wrote that neighbors “should do our part for our whole community.”
“The Sunset does not belong to privileged folks who can afford staying on top of the climbing housing market, but everyone of all income background(s),” Wong wrote. “I am proud of the Sunset for being open and diverse. I would love to see our neighborhood be a part of the change to help with disparities across San Francisco.”
At the meeting, Lamont noted the organization was open to hearing concerns about the height and density of the building, but she did not feel concerns about homeless families coming into the housing had basis in fact.
“Safety is important for us, and we too want our families to live safely and to feel safe in this neighborhood,” Lamont said. “By providing affordable housing we’re providing economic stability to make all of us safer.”