How the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development is creatively
tackling San Francisco’s housing shortage—one neighborhood at a time.
The parking lot at the intersection of Eddy and Taylor in the heart of the Tenderloin had for many years represented an unfulfilled dream. Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC), a non-profit affordable housing developer based in the neighborhood, acquired the lot in January 2008 for $10 million with funds from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD). The dream was to build 100-plus affordable homes in a city still grappling with the effects of the 2008 financial meltdown. Unfortunately, the Great Recession also resulted in steep drop offs in available resources for affordable housing as development came to a halt (as did the associate impact fees) and interest in federal low-income housing tax credits was wiped out with the decline in corporate profits. While TNDC worked to find creative solutions to move the project forward, the lot sat untouched for nine years. It was not until 2017, with the economic recovery well on its way, and with local and state resources in hand, that TNDC finally broke ground on the project. Fast-forward to May 2019—the first families were moving into 222 Taylor, an 11-year odyssey coming to a triumphant close.
The Bay Area Housing Shortage
The greater Bay Area has a housing shortage—there simply is not enough housing, both market-rate and affordable, to meet the needs of our growing region. Housing construction lags far behind population and job growth in San Francisco. There is an extremely high demand for jobs in the Bay Area coupled with a limited supply of housing. And more than ever, people want to live in cities. In 2010, big cities grew faster than suburbs for the first time since the 1920s. With rising demand comes increased housing costs, putting at risk thousands of low and moderate-income families who can no longer afford to live in the city they call home. Add to this a severe skilled construction labor shortage in the Bay Area that drives construction costs ever higher, and you have the makings of an affordability problem.
Unfortunately, resources to build affordable housing have never been sufficient to meet the incredible need. The Federal Government has been in retreat from addressing affordable housing as a national issue for decades. With dwindling federal resources for public housing, elimination of important programs like the Section 202 program for seniors, and cuts to CDBG and HOME funds, it has been up to local governments working in collaboration with state legislatures to provide the necessary funds to get shovels in the ground and projects like 222 Taylor up and running.
A Beautiful Place to Call Home
When David Baker and his team at David Baker Architects set out to design what would become 113 apartments for families, they knew they wanted the exterior of the building to make a statement, but also pay homage to the historic brick Tenderloin apartment buildings bordering the parcel. Baker described the design process of 222 Taylor as, “a way to address the concerns of contextualism in a new manner. 222 Taylor was designed to be a contemporary, dynamic building that took on the typology and spirit of the neighborhood in a modern way. We respected the historic context and tried to enliven it.”
The ground floor was designed with transparency in mind. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows are meant to draw in passersby and expand on the structure’s street presence. Street trees were planted, and the sidewalks were widened to enhance the streetscape. Bike parking was also at the forefront of the design process to complement the transit-oriented location of the development, which is just a short walk from Powell Station. Ultimately, Baker and his team wanted the building to express a certain degree of care and passion, because when they do, “people respect the building more, and it lasts longer.”
Access to healthy, low-cost grocery and restaurant options are rare in the heart of the Tenderloin; the area is often labeled a food desert. The brand-new retail space at 222 Taylor represented an opportunity to elevate local business and create a healthy, affordable market.
Daldas, an existing 1,600 square foot grocery store and delicatessen located on the northwest corner of Eddy and Taylor, directly across the street from the affordable housing site had long envisioned expanding to better serve the needs of the neighborhood. An early member and adopter of the city’s Healthy Retail SF Partnership, Daldas had already expressed a commitment to providing a wide array of fruits and vegetables at their existing corner store. In the planning process for 222 Taylor, TNDC approached Daldas and offered them the opportunity to move into the ground floor, paving the way for them to more than double in size. The new space will be upward of 3,500 square feet, and in exchange for lower rent, they will offer groceries at a reduced rate in an effort to encourage neighbors to opt for healthier foods. Beginning in 2020, neighbors and residents will be able to shop at the brand new Daldas, a Tenderloin mainstay, on the ground floor of Eddy Taylor Family Housing.
Yemen Kitchen, a popular Middle Eastern eatery on Jones Street between Eddy and Turk was at risk of losing their lease. Following a community driven Request for Proposal process, they were selected by TNDC and will be moving into the new housing development as well. Once in the new space, Yemen Kitchen will offer a full meal for only $6, a price for lunch or dinner you would be hard pressed to beat in San Francisco.
The story of the former parking lot at the intersection of Eddy and Taylor and its transformation is one of perseverance and of shared commitment to do right by the Tenderloin community and the residents of San Francisco.
The city is exploring creative solutions to our housing shortage. Mayor London Breed placed a $600 million Affordable Housing Bond on the November Ballot, which will produce/preserve approximately thousands of homes without raising property taxes. The bond will dedicate funding to replace dilapidated public housing, build new low-income housing, preserve existing rent-controlled apartments, and expand the senior and teacher housing pipelines to ensure all San Franciscans can continue living here.
MOHCD currently has more than 11,000 affordable homes in the pipeline, and we are expecting a momentous 2020. Next year we will surpass the goal of 10,000 affordable homes created or preserved, a target set by the late Mayor Ed Lee in 2014. The city’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Program, a targeted effort to renovate former public housing will celebrate its final grand re-opening, bringing the total number of homes revitalized by the program up to 3,500. Finally, the Mission will witness the first of seven grand openings of new permanently affordable housing in the district at 1296 Shotwell Street, a Senior Housing Development. In addition, and as part of the city’s HOPE SF initiative to transform dilapidated public housing into thriving, equitable, mixed income communities, Parcel Q at Sunnydale will officially open its doors to 55 public housing and low-income households.
In an increasingly difficult housing environment, successes like 222 Taylor keep us hopeful and committed to maximizing affordable housing opportunities and creating a more equitable San Francisco. The determination of a neighborhood-based non-profit developer working with the community and local government to deliver much needed affordable homes to residents in need is the blueprint for how we will begin to close the gap in our city’s housing shortage.
Max Barnes is a Senior Communications Associate at the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.