Homes hold hope for disabled 

A building that once housed a sanitarium is being transformed into a housing facility for adults with developmental disabilities.

The historic building at 1500 Page St. will soon have 14 studio apartments, one two-bedroom apartment and one one-bedroom manager's unit that will allow these adults to live on their own.

"It's like the building is coming full circle," said Joe Femino, housing and residential service manager with The Arc of San Francisco. "It was a place where our clients could've been housed in the 1930s under less than optimal circumstances. It's kind of a good twist."

The Arc, a nonprofit advocacy group for adults with developmental disabilities, will provide services to residents once construction is completed. The project itself is in the middle of the permit process and Femino expects construction to begin in the fall. It could take more than a year for construction to be completed. Residents could move in by the end of 2015 or early 2016.

There are an estimated 2,735 developmentally disabled adults in San Francisco, according to Mercy Housing, the developer of the project. But there are only 59 local beds currently available to this population. Though the addition of 16 units at Page Street is small, organizations involved say it would be a big help.

"There's such a lack of housing and it's been a real barrier for people's independence," said Meredith Manning, communications director for The Arc. "There's such a big population of adults still living with families or in boarding and care homes. It's not their first choice, but with the housing crunch it's really, really hard to find affordable housing."

Mercy and The Arc are also developing additional housing for developmentally disabled adults in the South of Market. At Sixth and Howard streets, site of the Defenestration art installation, another 14 units will be available to developmentally disabled adults following construction there.

The building on Page Street was originally built in 1904 and saw a variety of uses over the years until it was vacated nearly 10 years ago. Another development to put senior-focused housing there fell through in 2008.

A marble sign with an engraving of the name of the sanitarium — Scobie Memorial Sanitarium — still sits over the entry of the building.

Ted Loewenberg, president of the Haight-Ashbury Improvement Association, said the neighbors support the project to put the historic building to use.

"We think it's making use of that building rather than letting it sit there and be wasted," Loewenberg said.

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