Building for all: Nonprofit and developer team up for hybrid approach to housing crisis 

click to enlarge For the first time in The City, a private developer and nonprofit are teaming up to building housing for the formerly homeless on the same site with market-rate housing. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • For the first time in The City, a private developer and nonprofit are teaming up to building housing for the formerly homeless on the same site with market-rate housing.
The housing crisis in San Francisco has, if nothing else, prompted developers to think outside the box.

For the first time in The City’s history, a development firm has teamed up with a nonprofit organization to offer supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals and families, on the same site where market-rate housing will be constructed. It’s a move supporters hope will inspire future projects to follow suit.

But some feel the proposal at the decrepit and run-down Civic Center Hotel, owned by the Local 38 Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, will not provide enough below market-rate homes in the thriving mid-Market area.

San Francisco-based Strada Investment Group has teamed up with Community Housing Partnership, The City’s only nonprofit that exclusively provides supportive housing to formerly homeless individuals and families. The firm and nonprofit will transform the hotel into a nearly 600-unit mixed-use development of multiple buildings, along with vehicle and bicycle parking and open space.

Supportive housing is for individuals, families and seniors who are exiting homelessness and typically earn less than 20 percent of the area median income, which in San Francisco is $71,350.

According to documents filed with the Planning Department, the site will include 477 market-rate rental units, of which at least 40 percent will be two- or three-bedroom units, and 107 below market-rate supportive rental units that will be operated by the Community Housing Partnership.

The 107 supportive housing units will replace the 71 units at the Civic Center Hotel to provide homes for those residents, and add social and community services.

“Strada was very courageous to make this decision; deciding to do supportive housing, especially in a moment in time when homelessness is such a concern in San Francisco,” said Gail Gilman, executive director of Community Housing Partnership.

The nonprofit is negotiating with The City to begin managing the single-room occupancy units starting early as July. The Civic Center Hotel could also soon be linked to the Navigation Center that opened in March to provide temporary transitional shelter to help stabilize those without a home.

The development firm also has promised to not displace any residents during construction. Those who live in the hotel will remain there until the new site for supportive housing is complete, and will then move into the new site, said Michael Cohen, co-founder and principal of Strada.

“Very early on in the process we realized it was going to be important to come with a thoughtful, compassionate transition plan,” Cohen said.

But Jason Henderson, chair of the transportation and planning committee for the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, said he expects more below market-rate housing for a site owned by a labor union.

“It’s kind of two-faced for a labor union to talk about how expensive it is to live in the Bay Area and how workers find it difficult to live in places like San Francisco, then they’re only willing to do 12 percent [below market rate] on site,” Henderson said.

In the planning documents, the developers have noted they will either provide the required 12 percent below market-rate housing in the market-rate buildings or pay a fee for below market-rate housing to be built off-site, as required by The City.

It also remains to be seen exactly what will remain of the five-story Civic Center Hotel, a brick building that no one argues is long past its prime.

“The Civic Center Hotel…is very much at the end of its useful life,” Cohen said. “We’re favorable to the idea of preserving the historic element.” He added, “The guts of the building will have to be brand new.”

Also planned for the site is 9,275 square feet of ground-floor retail space; 27,296 square feet of space for the labor union; open space; and some 200 parking spaces and 362 bike parking spaces.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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