By Thomas K. Pendergast
The effort to build 135 units of housing for San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) educators on the block between 42nd and 43rd avenues and Irving and Judah streets officially started with a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 27.
Formerly known as the Francis Scott Key Annex, it is being renamed Shirley Chisholm Village, in recognition of Shirley Chisholm, an educator who in 1968 was the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress. In 1972 she was also a serious contender for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
According to the Mayor’s Office, the housing will give preference to district educators, employees and their families. Thirty-four units will be reserved for those earning between 40% and 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI). The rest are designated for those earning between 80% and 120% of AMI.
For 30 years the site was used for storage by the district. It later featured a public skate park, community garden and playground called “Playland at 47th Avenue.” The property will now be managed by MidPen Housing and will be all electric, with solar panels and high efficiency heat pumps to lower utility costs and carbon emissions, according to the Mayor’s Office.
“We know that the laws that exist really make things so complicated, so difficult to get a project like this done; even the 18-month delay to rezone this property, to make it prepared for housing in the first place,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed at the groundbreaking ceremony. “I appreciate supervisor (Gordon) Mar. What he and I have constantly discussed is the need to get more housing built in the avenues, in this part of town.
“The need to build is so important, but the need to build means there needs to be collaboration because we also know there’s a community here,” Breed said. “We know that there are a lot of native San Franciscans here, who grew up here, and it’s important that we continue to collaborate and work together and to try and be aggressive about getting housing done. It really is a partnership, and it does take a village.”
District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar said this is the first 100% affordable-housing development in the Sunset District.
“At a time when San Francisco residents continue to be frustrated with the extreme cost of housing and the state of our schools, this project provides real hope, not just to the 135 educators and their families who will be able to have a new home here in the Outer Sunset, but it provides new hope for our neighborhood and our City that we can build real solutions to our biggest problems,” Mar said.
“This project really brought our neighborhood together in the face of so much contention around housing and Shirley Chisholm Village has been embraced by the Outer Sunset community. It has benefitted from the input and collaboration from the neighborhood,” he said. “If you’re teaching our kids in San Francisco, you should be able to raise your kids in San Francisco.”
The district’s school board President Jenny Lam said it’s important to support educators and staff.
“We believe this affordable housing solution will create more equitable opportunities for educators and staff in the district and allow SFUSD to retain a strong workforce dedicated to our students. They deserve this,” Lam said. “Shirley Chisholm Village is an example of how our City, community and school district can all work toward common goals.”
Dr. Matt Wayne, the district’s new superintendent, talked about the need to bring teachers closer to where they work.
“There are many reasons we want affordable housing, but we want our teachers to be in the community that they serve, where their focus can be on their school and on their classroom and not worrying about an hour-and-a-half commute or the other challenges that educators can face in finding housing,” Dr. Wayne said. “We’re really pleased that this project is moving forward and aligns with our vision of recruiting and retaining educators.”
When Matt Franklin, president and CEO of Midpen Housing, introduced the president of the teachers’ union, he praised the union’s engagement in the process.
“We were so happy to see the union at the table from day one,” Franklin said. “I would just put out there as part of the model for how to do this right. It’s so, so valuable, and it’s a far, far better community than it would have been without that engagement.”
United Educators of San Francisco President Cassondra Curiel said educators are not just single entities.
“We are members of families, sometimes, single-parent households, sometimes no-children households, sometimes we care for our elder family members or, in some cases, we take in our students as foster youth,” Curiel said. “We’re community members. We are integral, critical and ingrained members of the community.”