SF building at rate to meet new housing stock goal 

click to enlarge The 8 Octavia condo tower on the corner of Octavia and Market streets is among numerous developments dotting the skyline. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/the S.F. Examiner
  • The 8 Octavia condo tower on the corner of Octavia and Market streets is among numerous developments dotting the skyline.

San Francisco is in a race to build itself out of a housing crisis, and only by keeping up the dizzying pace of groundbreakings, construction and ribbon-cuttings it's maintained so far this year will it reach its ambitious development goals.

In the first quarter of 2014 alone, 2,123 housing units opened, and The City is on track to complete more units by May than in all of last year.

The ceremonial opening Tuesday of the Rene Cazenave Apartments, the first supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals to open in the Transbay Redevelopment Area, was just the latest.

On the first floor of the already occupied, 120-unit, eight-story building named after the late housing activist, Mayor Ed Lee reminded development partners and other dignitaries of a pledge he announced at his State of the City address -- to create 30,000 new and rehabilitated homes in San Francisco by 2020, with at least one-third of them permanently below market rate and affordable to the middle class.

"The best way to honor Rene Cazenave and his family is to say, 'We're going to do more of this,'" Lee said. "I've asked all our nonprofit partners to join us in building our housing stock. We'll need a lot of partners."

Lee also brought up a prior commitment The City made nearly a decade ago -- to build 3,000 supportive housing units for homeless people.

"We're a few hundred shy and we will identify the next project to get to 3,000," he said.

In order to reach its goal of 30,000 new housing units by 2020, The City needs to complete 5,000 annually, an amount the mayor is "pretty confident" can be achieved, said his spokesman Francis Tsang.

"The mayor believes that this will alleviate some of the crisis" in housing, Tsang added.

A total of 2,499 housing units were constructed in 2013, according to the Housing Inventory. That number was a threefold increase from 2012 and a 26 percent jump over the 10-year average of 1,846 new housing units.

City policy mandates that all new buildings include a minimum of 15 percent below-market-rate housing or that funds get put aside for off-site construction of below-market-rate housing. The Rene Cazenave Apartments are 100 percent dedicated to formerly homeless individuals.

The $42.7 million complex at 25 Essex St. took five years to build and was developed by the Community Housing Partnership and BRIDGE Housing, organizations that believe supportive housing should be integrated throughout The City and not just concentrated in neighborhoods like the Tenderloin.

Supportive housing is "the most cost-effective intervention for addressing homelessness," said Community Housing Partnership Executive Director Gail Gilman, because it costs $10,000 to $15,000 per tenant annually, versus $20,000 to $25,000 per year for an individual on the street.

Among the formerly homeless people who pay 30 percent of their income to be housed at the apartments is Barry White, 43, who said he lost his Nob Hill apartment during the dot-com bust. Residential counseling services have encouraged him to restart his career as a wood design artist.

"My goal is to eventually leave," White said, "but I don't think I need to fear being evicted from here."

Housing completed in first quarter of 2014


Housing units opened


Housing units that received occupancy permits from the Department of Building Inspection


Housing units that received occupancy permits and are permanently below market rate through the Inclusionary Housing Program


Below-market-rate units that received completion permits in 2013 and welcomed new residents in 2014

Source: Mayor's Office

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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