Renderings Unveiled for Proposed 96 Units of Senior Citizen Housing on Shotwell



YIMBYs rejoice! Renderings have finally been unveiled for a $40 million project to construct a nine-story building at 1296 Shotwell Street, just off Cesar Chavez, to provide 96 units of housing for lower-income senior citizens. Funding for the project will mostly come from a variety of public sources, including federal grants and San Francisco housing funds. Mission Local broke the story:

The Mission Economic Development Agency, an established neighborhood non-profit but a newcomer to the affordable housing game, is partnering once again with the experienced Chinatown Community Development Corporation to construct the senior housing complex. It will allocate 20 percent of its units to formerly homeless seniors and the remainder will go to seniors with annual incomes between $21,400 and $35,700.

This is great news, and we really need more housing, so your Bernalwood editor remains a big fan of this project even though it will definitely block some of my glamorous downtown view. Let’s build it! But let’s also look at some of the details:

Right now, 1296 Shotwell is basically a shed that’s home to a few automotive repair shops. The history of this project is intimately tied to the Vida market-rate development at 2558 Mission Street that also created the soon-to-open Alamo Drafthouse Cinema inside the restored New Mission theater. Vida is a 114-unit, market-rate project in which the developer opted to meet their inclusionary housing requirements by purchasing 1296 Shotwell Street as a land dedication site for use by San Francisco to create affordable housing. This means the City basically received the land at 1296 Shotwell for free. And presumably, since 1296 Shotwell will be senior housing, each of the units in the new building will be relatively small, although the height of the building gives it significant density. That probably explains why, even with donated land and many small units, 1296 Shotwell pencils out at the relatively low price of $417,000 per unit. Prop A, the affordable housing bond passed in the election this month, will help pay for 1296 Shotwell.

Also by way of context, the Mission neighborhood nonprofit partner for 1296 Shotwell is Mission Economic Development Agency. MEDA has been in operation since the 1970s, mostly as a community assistance organization providing educational and small-business support services to Latino families in the Mission. More recently, MEDA has branched out into housing development. MEDA was a major backer of the recent Proposition I push to establish a moratorium on market-rate housing in the Mission, and Gabriel Medina, MEDA’s policy director, managed the Yes On I campaign from MEDA’s headquarters at 2301 Mission Street. Prop I was rejected by voters in the election earlier this month.

Also, by way of further clarification, Bernalwood’s understanding is that 1296 Shotwell is separate from 1515 South Van Ness, the previously-discussed Lennar development that seeks to create 160 units of market-rate housing on the site of the former McMillan Electric warehouse (which was itself originally the site of the Lesher-Muirhead Oldsmobile dealership).  This diagram shows how the two proposed development sites fit together:


As far as we know, none of the proposed developments will impact the (rather charming) Johns’s British Motor Car repair shop that fronts Cesar Chavez, nor the AutoZone store with its very fashionable view of Bernal Hill.

That’s a lot of change coming soon to one Bernal-adjascent block, but it it’s good to see positive efforts to put a dent in our housing shortage. At last.

61 thoughts on “Renderings Unveiled for Proposed 96 Units of Senior Citizen Housing on Shotwell

  1. Auto smog and oil change is a super nice guy w a small company at that exact address on shot well! We use them for our smog checks! They just informed me they are looking for a place to relocate but will keep their phone number!

  2. This really is great news! It kind of restores my faith in the process of builders actually following through on their commitments to build housing for seniors and others with low income.

  3. Sorry, but I think nine stories is too high. The Lennar development tops out at five stories, which is marginal, considering the surrounding buildings.

  4. This is a great project, well designed and strong, bold modern architecture. Great that it will be built for seniors as well.
    The height is appropriate and looking forward to seeing it get constructed.

  5. Fantastic! Such a great project that’s long overdue! I’m excited for our community and for our seniors.

  6. This is great news. Glad to see some real density being added to the area. I’m also glad we’ll have some new seniors as neighbors!

  7. This is a 9 story toehold that will fundamentally change the face of the mission. The first one is for the elderly, nice, right? The next (and the next, and the next) for the general public. Once 9 stories goes in, that becomes the new frame of reference. Thankfully we have an example of this line of thinking being constructed at breakneck speed in the 3rd St./Dogpatch area. 9 stories is hard-to-imagine huge. The repository on 25th is a good example as it’s also 9 stories.
    Now imagine 20 or 30 of those. That’s what the mission will start to look like if this goes through. How much “bold, modern architecture” until a city becomes unrecognizable?

    • Personally, I’m fine with that, and especially if 9 stories becomes the norm for all high-density housing — both subsidized and market-rate.

      If you’re not fine with that, that’s okay too… but then to the end of your days you’re never allowed to complain ever again about displacement or housing affordability. (I’m kidding, but only a little.)

      Remember: We can have jobs, preservation, or affordability, but we can only pick two.

      • Todd, thanks for the lecture and the quasi bullying. I think it’s utterly reasonable to love the way a city looks and not want to see that destroyed. And also to want to help those in need and create denser housing. Why do we need to go from three stories to nine? Could we start with say four or five and see how that feels? My guess is that if this was a development for the ultra wealthy and they planed to build nine stories you’d be marching against it. Yes? Believe me, they will be doing just that hot on the heels of this development. Is there possibly a more moderate route forward?

      • “My guess is that if this was a development for the ultra wealthy and they planed to build nine stories you’d be marching against it. Yes?”

        Actually, no. No, no, no. In fact, if 1296 Shotwell is approved at 9 stories, frankly I see no reason why 1515 South Van Ness shouldn’t be as well. And remember: I say this as someone who lives about 100 yards north of this site, and will lose some of my view when it is built. This is my immediate environment, and the changes here will be very close to home. We need more housing for everyone, and these are excellent locations for more if it.

      • ” I think it’s utterly reasonable to love the way a city looks and not want to see that destroyed”

        …and that’s exactly what NIMBYs said when they built the Golden Gate Bridge.

      • ” I think it’s utterly reasonable to love the way a city looks and not want to see that destroyed”

        The GG Bridge and everything ever built here. Only because its during the time I’ve lived here but I remember massive complaints when the Giants decided to build a downtown ballpark. I was working in the mission bay area at the time and there was nothing down there. It’s hard to imagine it now but there were literally tumbleweeds.
        You might not like what’s happening in mission bay but it’s a heck of a lot better than tumbleweeds and empty warehouses. (Why isn’t Butchertown being built in the same multi use manner?)
        Leaving things the same or going backwards is always counterproductive in a changing world. It’s a needed evolution to meet the population’s needs.
        I’ve said this before on here. Never forget when I moved here in ’91 and my taxi driver said, “this city sucks now, it’s not what it used to be” If you are looking for the past, you’ll never be happy.

    • A city that has water on three sides is going to have to engage in infill. A city is about much more than aesthetics. Daniel Libeskind had an articulate take on this (about Paris) in a NYT piece earlier this year on ‘most hated buildings’:

      “It’s legendary for being the most hated building in Paris. I want to defend it not because it’s a particularly beautiful tower, but because of the idea it represents. Parisians panicked when they saw it, and when they abandoned the tower they also abandoned the idea of a high-density sustainable city. Because they exiled all future high rises to some far neighborhood like La Défense, they were segregating growth. Parisians reacted aesthetically, as they are wont to do, but they failed to consider the consequences of what it means to be a vital, living city versus a museum city. People sentimentalize their notions of the city, but with the carbon footprint, the waste of resources, our shrinking capacity, we have no choice but to build good high-rise buildings that are affordable. It’s not by coincidence that people are going to London now not just for work but for the available space. No young company can afford Paris. Maybe Tour Montparnasse is not a work of genius, but it signified a notion of what the city of the future will have to be.”

    • Well, there’s a problem with picking 4 or 5 stories and seeing how that feels — this is the density we are going to live with for a very long time. There aren’t many do-overs here. We are still living with plenty of buildings that are 100 yrs old. Corridors like Chavez and Mission are the place to experiment with the higher buildings. We do have some that have been there for years, like at Bartlett and 25th, and Mission and 22nd, but we are a long way from that being the height of the whole Mission. I would like some better architecture, given that we will be living with it for a long time. We know MEDA is good at blocking housing. Let’s see if they can build some. We need it.

    • Don’t forget about the “US Bank” building on Mission and 22nd. It’s also over 9 stories.

      Curious: Why do you call the ATT (former Pacific Telephone) central office building “The Repository”?

      I always thought it was strange that there were so few tall buildings in the mission. But then, hey, I’m a former Dogpatch residence who thinks that the Mission Bay development is pretty nice (of course with a few exceptions).

  8. Another great thing about this development is that it will finally build a useable sidewalk on that side of Shotwell. Currently there’s sort of a sidewalk, but it’s permanently (illegally, but the city has done nothing about complaints) blocked by the auto parts places there.

    • That side of the street is owned by the property owner, it is private property. The street was curved to allow shotwell to go around the low income housing but the building owner retained the area next to his building for private parking as it was before. While someone low level tried to claim it back as city sidewalk, illegally, it was and still is private property.. That is why the city never tried to put a useable sidewalk there. The building owner maintained it as a parking lot for his shops. The sidewalk on Shotwell is on the other side of the street of the auto smog shop. It is a moot point as it looks like this will be shoved through without local comment. If someone has asked us as neighbors I’d have said, 4 stores or 95 stories.. and no cheap mural on the side please.

      • I didn’t realize that wasn’t legally a sidewalk there right now — interesting to know. As a historical sidenote, the bend in Shotwell there actually goes back to the 19th century, when the now-vanished Serpentine Avenue intersected Shotwell at a diagonal. The bent part of Capp was also part of Serpentine.

  9. The Vida development bought its way out of including affordable housing, so the rich in that 114 unit project won’t have to mingle with any have-nots, or even see them. This plan is also a bait and switch, because the original Vida plan (linked in the article above) proposed up to 46 units within existing zoning and height limits, with an allowable building height of 65 feet. Not nine stories.

    • Totally agree Linda. Allowing developers to buy parcels of land far afield from their precious buildings to use in order to meet their affordable housing requirements is simply a recipe for ghettoizing the less affluent in the city. Nine stories is a monster building for this area and violates the allowable height limits. Nine stories is too high.

      • That’s interesting you say that Rachel. One thing that I have thought very curious about the debate over affordability in the Mission, Prop I, etc, is the insistence that all housing built in the mission be only for people with limited income. And there is no discussion about the responsibility to have affordable housing being built in other neighborhoods as well. It has seemed to me the entire point of MEDA’s arguments is to create exactly what you are describing. Of course, I don’t think 9 stories is too high along transit corridors for any income level.

      • I am not certain I understand your response Alisa. My comment was certainly wasn’t implying (or insisting) that all housing being built in the Mission should be for people with limited income. What I am saying is that I don’t think that developers should be able to buy parcels of land far afield from their buildings to be used for affordable housing. The affordable housing component required by law should be included in the same building or very close by to the market-rate units. Both the Vida market-rate project and the proposed affordable-housing 9-story building are in the Mission, right? I don’t know MEDA’s arguments. This is MY opinion.

        And also I’m not sure why it should be OK to build a super-tall building in a “transit corridor” but not elsewhere. The proposed building will not front along Cesar Chavez, so does that it exclude it from said transit corridor? Where does the transit corridor end, how many blocks away from Cesar Chavez or Mission? I’m only a block south of Cesar Chavez – should it be OK to build a nine-story building on my street? How about a block or two north of Cesar Chavez?

      • Too high for what? What problems do you think it will cause?

        The problem that would be caused by not building the tall building is clear: some number of low-income seniors wouldn’t have a place to live. What problem would be caused by building it?

      • Also, about ghettoization – in this case, there’s a market rate development planned right next to this one, so if those both go up, we get some nice economic diversity right there 🙂

    • So we lost less than 20 BMR units at Vida and we gain 96 units of senior housing and you think this is a bad thing????

      Also, on site BMR units aren’t great for the BMR owners. HOA’s usually make it a bad deal. There is no rent control or Prop 13 on HOA’s. I’d actually argue that most of the time off site BMR units are preferable. And in this case it’s 5x the number of units!

  10. SENIOR HOUSING: An old friend (I think he’s 85 now) told me “The only problem with senior housing is that there’s a bunch of old people there! I don’t want to live with old people!” He prefers to live downtown in a mostly Section 8 apartment building. He plays Race for the Galaxy (a German-style board game) with some neighbors who are everything from mid-20s to 50s. He told me he’d prefer to live with (as he says) “the riff-raff” than to live in a senior housing complex (again his words), “run by a bunch of bureaucrats who only work there until they can get something better”.

    All I can say is that when/if I get to that point when I need to live in some kind of subsidized housing, the very LAST place I’d live is a “senior” village.

    • You’re in a city, surrounded by everything. Who cares if you’re apartment neighbors are old? You know when the worst time is to move into senior housing? When something happens and you no longer have a choice. My grandmother moved into subsidized senior housing when she turned 65 and ignored all of the services for 25 years. By the time she needed them, it was her home. I hope MEDA can run a wonderful place.

  11. Yes, thanks to Shotwellian for pointing out that that bend on Shotwell is one of the last remaning vestiges of Serpentine. For those of us who’ve imagined Serpentine, along with Jose Bernal’s wavy rancho-bordering stone wall that it mirrored, one day being restored to bring back a refreshing stretch of bucolic beauty, thus balancing the linear ungracefulness of Chavez, this news about the 9-story behemoth rising next to the bend’s antique semi-quietude puts the final nail in Serpentine’s coffin, and forever denies it a graceful resurrection.

  12. The two additional stories is specified specifically in the Request for Proposals for 1296 Shotwell St:

    * Currently zoned 65-X for building height and bulk. For purposes of this RFP, assume two additional stories above the 65’ for a total 85’ height limit. [1]

    It is very likely that the relaxation of the 65′ limit is due to the newly enforced ‘affordable housing bonus program’, which ‘two extra stories could be added to projects in certain parts of the city if 30 percent of the units in the new building will be permanently affordable for low- and moderate-income residents. Publicly funded projects with 100 percent affordable housing could add three floors instead of two.’ [2].


    • This is not “one of the certain parts of the city” under the “affordable housing bonus program” since this program does not apply in neighborhoods which are under Area Plans. The Mission is under the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan. Furthermore, the Bonus Program has not yet been approved.

      I am all in favor of affordable housing, especially for seniors, but nine stories is too high. Call me a NIMBY, I don’t care. If those of us who live in the neighborhood don’t advocate for our neighborhoods, then NO ONE will.

      As to the Lennar building proposal, there is hardly anything in the plan I find acceptable or inspiring.

    • Josh, bernalwood has been tracking the crazy mechanics and engineers in this building. Unfortunately we had him under a requested embargo until we could finish enough of our trucks to introduce to the public. He has so politely obliged us. We apologize to the people that don’t want to see any dirt or parts on the street. As we work to recycle all of the key components of trucks being rebuilt some vendors don’t always pick up on time, or take only what they want and leave the other items. We also work with mostly volunteer craftsman to keep costs low so we don’t have a regular team on any given day. Our hope is that the smiles and safe local organic foods that these trucks bring to San Francisco for years to come will be worth the small amount of mess we created during the restoration and construction of these old treasures.
      What is being built is a set of new (antique restored) trucks called diner trucks for a new San Francisco organic foods producer. These trucks will also serve as ambassadors and mascots for that brand. We don’t intend to do press, big openings or announcements, that’s not our thing. We are into safe food and smiles for children. What you should know is that there will be at least eight mobile diner trucks that serve great local organic foods from our creamery, production facility and cafe in 2016. We focus on less plastic, less aluminum and more safe media to process, cook and store organic foods. After a two year approval slog with the city and state, we are ready to launch trucks and you can start to see them at truckicecream on instagram or read more at or You’ll see them in person at food truck locations or the park system (depending on bid selection process that is ongoing).

      Everything takes a long time to get approved in California. We have worked slowly and diligently to get food and these trucks to the intended targets, families that enjoy the slow food movement with local, organic, non-gmo food in a fun environment. We think these are a handful of the only food trucks in the USA that you can actually dine directly on. They are open air food trucks that can serve faster than traditional box trucks that serve only on one side. We are not looking forward to the move when this building project starts, but have known since we moved in that one day it would happen. Unlike originally reported that this is a vacant building, it is actually a somewhat secret incubator of the next evolution of the organic slow food movement. We wish we had a rich uncle or internet gazillionaire funding our plans, but alas we pick up pennies on the street and push forward with the imagineering process, work late hours and hope that smiles materialize. They did on Halloween for a few children when we tested a newly approved truck.

      I’d have sent this directly to you if I could. Maybe bernalwood magicians can make it self destruct in two days or forward it to you..

  13. Good point on the height limits here but I’m not sure it’s the result of the Affordable Housing Bonus Program that the Chron article talks about. My understanding is that the program is currently proposed legislation, not yet law. Also, according to the map linked to below, this parcel is not part of the program. So perhaps there’s something else going on here that’s getting them their variance on the height limits.

    Anyway, the Affordable Housing Bonus Program seems very well designed to get increased density in transit corridors in low-density parts of the city. By connecting increased height limits with requirements for affordable units it takes care of all sorts of things: more housing, increased density in transit corridors, and more affordable housing. And by incentivizing affordable housing in smaller buildings it integrates affordable housing throughout the city, which is much better than concentrating it.

    I believe this whole plan was developed by SF Planning (showing that the city planners aren’t just a bunch of myopic bureaucrats, like some accused them of being in earlier comments on the election post). This is a pretty huge change in the way things are done now.

    For folks who can’t click through to the Chron article, here is a short article on the proposed program:

    Here’s the main webpage:

    And here’s a cool map of which precise parcels throughout the city the program will apply to:

  14. Todd – Kudos to you for your support of this much needed project. BTW, this type of affordable development is what Proposition I was all about. Trying to preserve the few remaining developable lots for affordable housing as opposed to more luxury housing – “market rate” these days in SF is luxury housing. Also BTW, MEDA was a strong supporter of Prop I, and one of the organizations that led that effort.

    • Oh come on, this wasn’t what Prop I was about. This lot was already purchased for affordable housing by the Vida people years ago, and the City didn’t have, or wasn’t willing to find, the rest of the money to build it. Instead of getting the project off the ground, MEDA spun everyone’s resources into a ballot prop that had nothing to do with getting this project built (Prop A might have something to do with this, but I still think the City should have had the fund without Prop A). And in fact it won’t be done for years after Vida was finished. Further, this building (and the other affordable projects proposed but still not bid out or built), while laudable, will do nothing to keep existing tenants in their houses and apts when landlords know that there are people who will rent the same old, run-down places for double the rent because there are no new market rate places for them to go. Half my block now has older, unrenovated houses where exorbitant rent is being charged to high-paying tenants who are getting few amenities other than location. It defies logic to believe that anyone would pay $4-5k in rent for an old run-down unit in a house if there was something nicer available. And if there was, maybe the old tenants would still be there.

      • YOU’RE RIGHT. What this City really needs is strong rent control – covering units whether occupied or not – vacancy decontrol. We’ll never build our way to an affordable City, let alone by developing market rate housing, or even affordable housing. Good point!

    • In fact this is exactly the kind of project that Prop I would have made impossible, or at least much more difficult: it was funded in part by Vida, a market-rate housing development in the Mission. With Prop I, Vida could not have been built, and then the city wouldn’t have gotten a free parcel of land from the developers.

      At best the city could’ve bought the land itself – but that would have left it with much less funding for other affordable projects in the future.

      • Read Prop I. It fast tracked any and all affordable developments, and only stopped market rate projects. Prop I would have stopped luxury development on the few remaining sites in the Mission so that nonprofits like MEDA could buy them and build affordable housing.

      • Right, but would MEDA have actually had the funds to buy this site if it hadn’t been donated by the Vida developers? Even if they had, I think it’s a great win that MEDA can now instead use those funds for additional affordable housing work – the more the better.

      • We should be fast-tracking housing development of all kinds — both affordable and market-rate.

        The housing shortage affects everyone, at all income levels, and the middle class in particular is caught with no place to go. (They can’t afford the fancy new stuff, and don’t qualify for affordable.) If MEDA had been more astute — or less self-interested — when drafting Prop I, they would have paired increased affordable development requirements with some sort of deals to streamline some market-rate development as well. That would have been a great way to prevent displacement and create more housing opportunities for the middle class. And if they’d balanced things out in that way, Prop I probably would have passed with similar margins as Prop D — which is to say, overwhelmingly.

        Instead, MEDA was playing political games while angling to steer more funding into its own coffers — and wasting everyone’s time along the way. Frankly, I’m sorry to see them rewarded for the folly that was Prop I.

    • Hmm…I’m pretty sure Prop I would have halted this project in its track. Prop I specifically stopped the demolition of business spaces, workshops, auto repair facilities, etc. for the purpose of putting up housing. That pretty much fits this project to a T.

  15. This is exactly what we need. More density on transit corridors. I see nothing wrong with 9 stories on Chavez, Potrero, and Mission. If not there, where? The density bonus for affordable projects was already passed, so let’s not revisit it again. You’re either for additional density or you’re for higher prices / displacement. Pick your side.

  16. Good news. This height for additional housing on Chavez and on Mission would be great. We need more of these, both market rate and otherwise.

  17. MEDA has never seen its hypocrisy, officially anyway. On the one hand I’m glad they are getting involved in doing something useful (developing affordable housing), rather than vaguely working on “economic development” (while campaigning against it) as they have for years. However, as an affordable houser they are now doing exactly what got Mission Housing Development Corporation into trouble during the last boom – they are blatantly self-dealing by trying to preserve all the development sites in the Mission for themselves. Some grown up should tell them to stop, already.

  18. I think MEDA’s plan almost worked out as intended. Harass every market rate development one by one, get a juicy piece of land for free from the Vida condo. Check. Then come up with a bolder idea: pass Prop I, kill the market for large developments for a couple years, and lock up multiple additional sites. Fortunately Prop I failed. Back to the one by one harassment.

    • If your housing is close to nil, then that’s as if you have a bump of $40,000 gross income, and thus with a purchasing power between $61,400 and $75,700. I think that’s fairly substantial.

  19. Reading this post was very upsetting to me, but it’s the sort of thing I’ve come to expect from this blog:
    It’s called Cesar Chavez Street, not Cesar Chavez Blvd.

    This project will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood and I hope many more like it get built.

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