A new affordable housing project in San Francisco for LGBTQ seniors will have 185 units in a 15-story building, according to plans submitted to the city this week. This will be the third such development specifically designed for LGBTQ seniors in the city.
The project is to be built at 1939 Market Street and will cost $106,117,600. The city acquired the 7,840-square-foot triangular lot at Market and Duboce Avenue in 2020 for $12 million from the Sheet Metal Workers Local 104. The union plans to vacate the property closer to the start of construction of the new building.
It still needs to be approved by the city’s planning commission and other departments before the land can be dumped on the site. Because it is a completely affordable project for low- and very-low-income seniors, the city has given it priority status and deferred the fees it would normally charge.
Last year, the Mayor’s Office for Housing and Community Development selected affordable housing developer Mercy Housing and Openhouse, a nonprofit provider of LGBTQ senior services in San Francisco, for the project. The agencies have partnered on the 119 LGBTQ-friendly affordable senior housing units spread between the buildings at 55 and 95 Laguna Street.
The campus also includes Openhouse’s offices at 65 Laguna and a new community center it built at 75 Laguna. It is a short walk from the upper Market Street location of the new residential building which will include commercial space on the ground floor.
According to plans Mercy Housing submitted to city planners on Sept. 20, the triangular-shaped building will use the state’s density bonus program to provide a mix of 106 bachelor, 80 one-bedroom and one two-bedroom unit. Part of the housing will be reserved for seniors who have experienced homelessness.
As with the two previous buildings overseen by Mercy and Openhouse, a lottery will take place for the rest of the units at 1939 Market Street. Straight and LGBTQ seniors will be able to enter as long as they meet income restrictions, which are expected to range from 15% to 60% of the region’s median income.
The building will have residential interior amenity spaces and a second-floor terrace. An outdoor space of nearly 1,900 square feet would face Duboce Avenue, while the main lobby would be accessible from Market Street.
Mercy will oversee construction of the units and provide property management for the building. Openhouse will provide tenant services and programs. Representatives for either agency did not immediately respond to BAR’s request for comment on Thursday.
Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Upper Market Street area, worked with Mayor London Breed’s administration to acquire the plot from the syndicate. He told BAR that the proposed building “is exciting” and that its massing and height are “appropriate” to the location.
“I think there is a huge need for this type of accommodation, as we have seen that the two previous Openhouse buildings had thousands of applicants for places that opened up there. So I think we need this building and we need 10 more,” he said.
While the public benefits of the proposed building and its units “are clear,” Mandelman said, he acknowledged that its size will likely elicit some opposition.
“I think it’s a site that can handle some height and can handle density. I think it’s appropriate,” Mandelman said. “Maybe there will be questions about the design, which is good. In terms of overall size and number of units, I think what the mayor’s office is aiming for here is good, and I supported.”
Paulett Taggart Architects is the lead architect for the project and has engaged YA Studio to assist with the design. The building is expected to be 159 feet tall and have a total area of 141,630 square feet with no parking for cars but space reserved for 23 bicycles.
Writing on the plans for the SF YIMBY website, Andrew Nelson noted that the proposed building “would stand out in the neighborhood, standing six stories higher than the adjacent 1998 Market Street, built between 2012 and 2014 with a design of Arquitectonica. The proposal is not shy about its height, with a grid pattern emphasizing its verticality, culminating in a dramatic flat iron edge.”
Eric D. Shaw, a gay man who is director of the mayor’s housing office, told BAR last year that the city would cover the cost of the building’s design and engage with the community on the architectural plans, by more to provide a development loan between 10 and 30 million dollars. One-third of the funding would come from investors, Shaw said, while another third would come from the state.
Mandelman told the BAR that he was not informed of the timeline for the project to receive city approvals or for the start of construction. He said that once it is approved, project sponsors can apply for state funding for it.
“I think, hopefully, this project will be competitive for state funding because the need is huge,” he said. “They still have to raise the funding and apply for tax credits for this project. That will probably determine the timing more than anything else.”
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