A Rare Gem in High-Priced San Francisco: New Low-Income Housing

Source: KQED

By Erika Aguilar | September 28, 2017

Among luxury apartments, the future Warriors arena and biotech research campuses stands a rare gem in San Francisco’s waterfront community of Mission Bay — brand-new low-income housing.

“It’s a very beautiful neighborhood. The view is nice,” said Carlos Poot, 36, as he pushed his 1-year-old daughter in a stroller, his two other children skipping ahead with his wife.

They were walking up to their two-bedroom home at the Five 88 Apartments, the city’s latest affordable housing project in Mission Bay. San Francisco held a grand opening on Friday.

“The great thing with Mission Bay, and other large developments, is it gives the city a chance to implement higher levels of affordability that are necessary in San Francisco,” said Marc Slutzkin, project manager with the city’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure.

The Five 88 Apartments has 198 one- and two-bedroom units for very-low income families making no more than $43,050 for a one-person household and up to $79,740 for a family of five.

These units count toward the city’s goal of having 1,900 units of affordable housing in Mission Bay, or about a third of the total units planned for the waterfront community. There are about 860 more affordable housing units left to build, said Slutzkin.  Approximately 1,000 units are already finished.

San Francisco officials in the early 2000s began to redevelop Mission Bay from a former industrial district with warehouses and old railyards to a residential and commercial neighborhood with much of the growth fueled by the UCSF Medical Center.

Carlos Poot, 36, and his wife, Sendy Novello, 32, and their children were sharing one room in a two-bedroom apartment in the Tenderloin. They moved into the affordable housing Five 88 apartment complex in Mission Bay in July. (Erika Aguilar/KQED)

The Five 88 affordable housing development started with UCSF’s need to build temporary housing for families of children receiving treatment at the Benioff Children’s Hospital. In November 2010, developer Related California pitched the new housing project and teamed up with affordable housing agency Chinatown Community Development Center.

It took seven years from inception to move-in date to complete the $85 million project. The disintegration of the state’s Redevelopment Agency, which used to fund new housing projects, as well as other costs helped delay the project.

The apartment complex is sleek and bright orange, with concrete, modern industrial design. Its airy open-space lobby, where tenants get their mail, was designed this way to save money.  

The open, airy lobby for the Five 88 affordable housing apartments in Mission Bay was designed this way because of budget cuts. (Erika Aguilar/KQED)

“It has originally been proposed to be enclosed,” said Lisa Grady, senior project manager with Related California. “One of the revisions we made, because we wound up with budget troubles, was to open this up, and I actually think it wound up being a better design.”

Poot and his family were among more than 4,000 families that were picked from a lottery to lease a unit at the new apartment complex.

Poot said that with San Francisco’s high rents, he and his wife were content to share an apartment with his brother in the Tenderloin. But when they started having kids, it got to be too much.

“We are family, but there are always small arguments among kids. They fight or eat each other’s snacks,” he said in Spanish. “Gracias a Dios, now they have more space and we have our space, too.”