Cortland Apartment Building Purchased to Ensure Current Residents Can Remain


And now, that most precious of things: A happy story about housing.

At a time when new subsidized-affordable housing in San Francisco costs almost $600,000 per unit to build, stabilizing our existing housing supply is often a more cost-effective way to prevent the displacement of current San Francisco residents. That’s why it’s great news that the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) used the Mayor’s Small Sites Program to purchase 1500 Cortland Avenue, a four-unit building built in 1960 on the corner of Bradford.

MEDA writes:

There are four units at 1500 Cortland that are called home by families — the types of families MEDA is looking to help stay in their neighborhood of choice.

Unit 1 is a one-bedroom apartment that is the 23-year home to Lisa and her husband, Winefredo, who is disabled and receives in-home care. Lisa, who is a hotel worker and the sole income provider, was in a car accident last winter, with head and back injuries meaning she cannot currently work. Daughter Jennifer lives with her parents, but is ready to start college.

In Unit 2 reside Gabriela and Ramon, devoted parents of Javier, an eighth-grader at nearby Paul Revere K-8 School. The family makes this one-bedroom apartment work for their living situation, and they feel part of their Bernal Heights community.

Unit 3 is the two-bedroom residence of Tomas and Greisy, plus their two young children, Jennifer and Kevin. Tomas works in construction, while Greisy is a full-time mother. This Latino immigrant family has felt welcomed in the neighborhood and were excited to find a way to stay. If not for the Small Sites program, they knew they would be displaced from San Francisco.

In two-bedroom Unit 4 reside 77-year-old Jane and her spouse, Claudio, who is one year older; their sole income is from monthly Social Security checks. The couple has lived over half their lives in this apartment at 1500 Cortland. Claudio’s sister, Bernadette, also lives with them for now. This is the third generation to call this apartment home.

To showcase how 1500 Cortland has become its own community over time, Jane serves as caregiver for Winefredo in Unit 1.

“These four units’ residents seized the opportunity to make this Small Sites program deal possible,” explains Housing Opportunities Coach Johnny Oliver, who helped structure the sale. “Tenants agreed to increase their rent a bit to maximize the amount of the first mortgage, but they will still be in affordable housing that is around 50 percent of the median for this neighborhood. This is a win for the community.”

Indeed it is.

MEDA didn’t say now much it cost to acquire 1500 Cortland, but the property had been listed for $1.6 million. (UPDATE: A plugged-in reader tells Bernalwood the property ultimately sold for $1,150,000.) The acquisition will also include a rehabilitation of the aging building, during which the current tenants will be temporarily relocated.

Bravo, MEDA, and big congrats to all our Bernal neighbors who can now remain Bernal neighbors for many years to come.

PHOTO: via Google Street View

8 thoughts on “Cortland Apartment Building Purchased to Ensure Current Residents Can Remain

  1. I think it is a great idea to “integrate” affordable housing into all neighborhoods in San Francisco. Especially where the NIMBYs are trying to prevent affordable housing from being built. Having large swatches of affordable housing set off separate does not make for a diverse community.

  2. Yay!!! Thanks for reporting this story with all the details about these neighbors, not simply a transaction involving a four-unit building, but a successful creative plan affecting people with names and actual lives! Yay!! So happy to know and be able to share this story.

  3. It’s great news that these people get to stay. And if this was the only way to get that done, then I’m glad it got done.

    But in the middle of SF’s current housing crisis, it’s hard to get too happy about a deal that preserves a four unit house at a cost of at least $1,600,000 to the city. Given that the residents are still going to have to be temporarily housed elsewhere while the renovation is going on, why not build up while they’re off the site? Add another 4 units of subsidized housing and then top it off with 4-8 units of market-rate to fund the deal. That would be eight low-income families getting to call Bernal home, and 8 rich people who wouldn’t be tempted to bid out less-rich people elsewhere.

    • +1. I want to be happy about this, but instead I find it kinda depressing because its so clearly not scalable, or going to do anything for anyone but a small, lucky group. And I am happy for those people! But is this really going to be cheaper than builidng new — $400k/unit or more at purchase plus renovations?

  4. Maybe the assumptions are wrong, but if they spent $1.6M for 4 units when it costs $600k per unit to build new, they are $800k ahead before they start any “rehabilitation “, whatever that means.

    Maybe they could tear it down and build it more densely with more affordable units, but what’s the math in that, and isn’t that a lot riskier given the NIMBY creed that’s so prevalent?

    Seems a sensible thing.

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