New Design Unveiled for Nine-Story Housing at 1296 Shotwell

Rendering of new design for 1296 Shotwell, with revised southern facade, facing Bernal Hill. Source: MEDA

As you may recall, there was a meeting on Tuesday night during which the Mission Economic Development Agency  (MEDA) did the Big Reveal of their updated design for 1296 Shotwell, the nine-story housing development proposed for a site on Shotwell just north of Cesar Chavez. There’s a focus group happening in North Bernal on Monday, Aug. 29 to collect feedback on the new design (but more about that in a moment).

As you no doubt also recall, 1296 Shotwell is slated to become 90+ units of subsidized-affordable housing for senior citizens. The building will stand 85′ tall, or 20′ taller than current zoning allows.  Given the visual prominence of the site, the proposal for 1296 Shotwell been the object of intense scrutiny, with some Bernal neighbors saying that the development just too tall, and others suggesting the height would be  less of an issue if the Bernal-facing side of the building had a less austere design.

Both concerns were front and center during Tuesday’s meeting. The crowd at Tuesday’s meeting was small, with only about a dozen people attending, including several activists and project affiliates who were there to perform their roles as activists and project affiliates.

Most of the presentation was delivered by Susie Coliver of Herman Coliver Locus, the architectural firm leading the design for 1296 Shotwell. In response to community feedback, Coliver said her firm considered several alternate designs for 1296 Shotwell, including some that eliminated one or two stories from the building to mollify concerns about its exceptional height. The result, she said, was that while yes, the building did get a bit shorter, reducing a few floors didn’t really to much to make it feel much smaller from street level or North Bernal. Meanwhile, the height reductions significantly reduced the total number of housing units the building could potentially contain.  In practical terms, here’s what those trade-offs would look like:

Height design exercise for 1296 Shotwell, showing number of residential units each design could accommodate. Source: MEDA

Height design exercise for 1296 Shotwell, showing number of residential units each design could accommodate. Source: MEDA

Thus, in the revised design,1296 Shotwell remains the same height: Nine stories, rising 85-feet from street level.

Instead, the new design focuses on rethinking the building’s southern, Bernal-facing facade, which is the side that may become a new landmark for the 9000 people who will gaze upon it daily from their homes on the north slope of Bernal Hill.

The new design reduces the number of units from 96 to 94 and attempts to add more color and texture to the south side of 1296 Shotwell, without relying upon superficial decoration such as murals, mosaics, or graphics. Highlights of the new design for the south side include:

  • stepped roofline to provide locations for several new roof gardens. This is intended to avoid the monolithic, rectangular massing of the old design. A roof garden running along the south side of the building would reduce the apparent height of the building by one story, when viewed from street-level
  • There’s now a vertical column of windows in the center of the south facade, hidden behind laser-cut, enameled screen panels.
  • The concrete panels flanking the windows on the left and right may also include alternating coloration, to provide additional texture.

When we zoom and enhance the rendering of the new design to focus on how all these elements come together, the Bernal-facing side of1296 Shotwell maybe possibly perhaps would look something like this (if the roof gardens were well maintained):



Compare and contrast, old design vs. new design:

And here’s another view of the new design, showing how 1296 Shotwell might look if you were a pigeon flying over the intersection of Cesar Chavez and South Van Ness. The proposed terracing of the roof decks is more clear from this angle:

New rendering of proposed 1296 Shotwell design. Source: MEDA

New rendering of proposed 1296 Shotwell design. Source: MEDA

During Tuesday’s meeting, additional concerns were raised about parking, shadows, and wind-tunnel effects caused by the building’s nine-story height. Responses were more or less as follows:

Parking: 1296 Shotwell has no onsite parking, and is not required to include any. MEDA suggested that the 150 or so senior citizens who will qualify to live in the building can’t really afford cars anyway.

Wind and Shadows: Basic wind and shadow studies for this site were conducted during a preliminary environmental impact review (EIR) 10 years ago. MEDA says a revised EIR is not required.

UPDATE: After publication, MEDA shared this clarification: “We have implemented an initial wind study and the report indicated that there would not be an adverse impact of generating wind tunnels; therefore, a further wind tunnel report is not necessary. As for shadow studies, Auto Zone, which is next door to the building, plans on putting solar panels on their roof and had requested plans from the team, and deemed that there are no adverse impacts to their installation. The Planning Department would determine if a full EIR would be needed — not the development team.”

Height: The current proposal for 1296 Shotwell is 20 feet taller than the 65′ maximum height that current zoning specifies for this site. MEDA says they plan to use the new Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP) to secure the necessary variance.

Project Timing: MEDA says they hope to complete the permitting for 1296 Shotwell in mid-2017 so construction can begin in late 2017. If that happens, occupancy would start in late 2019 or early 2020.

So that’s the latest plan.

Now that the new design has been revealed, MEDA will hold a “focus group” for Bernal residents to discuss the current proposal this Monday, and you are encouraged to attend:

1296 Shotwell Design Focus Group: Monday, August 29, 6pm to 7:30pm, Precita Eyes Mural Studio, 348 Precita Avenue

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

For Sale: Genuine 1906 Earthquake Shack on Bocana, at a Very 2016 Price


Metaphor Alert! A former earthquake shack that was relocated to 164 Bocana Street after the Great Earthquake of 1906 was recently listed for sale, with an oh-so 2016 asking price of  $779,000.  For those keeping score at home, CurbedSF calculates that’s a 1.5 million percent increase from it’s original post-1906 price of $50.

CurbedSF adds:

The city dates it to 1909, although that may be just the year it was moved to its present location. Most earthquake shacks were built in the months immediately after the 1906 quake and migrated from their original locations in park refugee camps after tenants paid off their rent-to-own leases.

However it got here, this one-bedroom number a block from Bernal Heights park is about as cute as it gets, with its shingled facade, cathedral ceiling, stained glass windows, gas fireplace disguised as wood stove, and frosted glass on interior doors.

There are lots more photos of 164 Bocana inside and out over at CurbedSF.

PHOTO by Zephyr via CurbedSF

Behold, Renderings of the New Housing Proposed for Bernal’s Northern Frontier



We’ve known for some time that lots of new housing is coming to the block of Cesar Chavez between South Van Ness and Shotwell — an area that sits right at the foot of Bernal Heights, on a plot of land that’s rather high-profile to anyone who looks down upon it from homes on Bernal’s north slope.

On the site of the garage workshops at 1296 Shotwell, a nine-story affordable housing development for senior citizens is in the works. Meanwhile, on the adjacent property at 1515 South Van Ness, the former site of McMIllan Electric (which was, before that, the the glamorous showroom for Lesher-Muirhead Oldsmobile) is set to become a 157 unit mixed-income apartment building. This week, firm renderings were published for both projects.

This is good, because our economy is booming and our population is growing, but  housing costs are batshit crazy because we haven’t built nearly enough new housing to accommodate all 864,816 of our fellow San Franciscans. Some high-density, mixed-income housing is just the thing to address that problem, but both these projects will have hurdles to overcome.

Let’s start with 1296 Shotwell. Here’s how the site looked yesterday:

Fashionable! Replacing all this, 1296 Shotwell will become a nine-tory development with 96 affordable units for seniors. SocketSite says it will also be home to 5,000 square feet of community and office space and 5,500 square feet of outdoor space. Here’s how it’ll look on the building’s Bernal-facing south side:


And here’s the proposed site plan:


But about that whole nine-story thing…

1296 Shotwell will be 85 feet tall. For seasoned north-slopers, it’s not too difficult to visualize what a nine-story building will look like on that site; it’ll be just a little taller than the landmark 1940s-era Telco Building on 25th and Capp:


The Telco Building is eight stories, so 1296 Shotwell will be one taller.  And what would that look like?

Here’s a crude mockup of a nine-story, 85-foot version of the Telco Building, transposed on the site of 1296 Shotwell. The proposed building would look thinner and more contemporary, but the height of the building rise on the horizon roughly like this:


That’s where things get sticky. SocketSite explains:

As noted in the City’s preliminary review of the project plans, which were drafted by Herman Coliver Locus Architecture, [1296 Shotwell] is currently only zoned for development up to 65 feet in height.

As such, the 1296 Shotwell Street parcel will either have to be legislatively upzoned or the City’s proposed Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP) will need to be passed in order for the development to proceed. Once approved and permitted, it will take another two years to build.

Urp. The Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) is one of the nonprofits leading the effort to develop 1296 Shotwell, and MEDA has become synonymous with the Mission District’s progressive political machine. That should help 1296 Shotwell quell some of the usual anti-housing protest antics, but the height issue will be more complicated. Here too, however, MEDA probably has the political connections to secure the variances 1296 Shotwell requires. And with luck, one hopes the mural on the Bernal-facing side of the building will be easy on the eyes.

Meanwhile, the computer-rendering gods have also given us a picture of what is envisioned for 1515 South Van Ness, on the northwest corner of the block. Here’s how it snuggles in alongside 1296 Shotwell:

1515 South Van Ness will be a six-story, 157-unit market-rate development, and the current plans show it looking like this, as envisioned on the corner of Shotwell and 26th Street, looking southwest:


The renderings for 1515 South Van Ness don’t include the nine-stories of 1296 Shotwell, so  remember that 1296 Shotwell will rise nine-stories above this near the left side of the image. Also remember: This is what this location looks like today (and wave hello to Bernal Hil)l:


SocketSite has additional details about 1515 South Van Ness:

As designed by BDE Architecture, the proposed development will rise to a height of 65-feet along South Van Ness, stepping down to five stories and 55-feet in height at the corner of 26th and Shotwell.

In addition to a corner 1,100 square foot retail space at Van Ness, the latest plans include six small “trade shop” spaces along 26th Street (and an underground garage for 81 cars and 150 bikes).

And if approved, the development will take roughly two years to build, and 12 percent of the 157 apartments will be offered at below market rates.

The developer behind 1515 South Van Ness is Lennar Urban, the urban-housing arm of  megadeveloper Lennar Corporation. By way of comparison, Lennar is the opposite of MEDA is just about every way, because Lennar is a big, nationwide, publicly-traded firm focused on market-rate housing development. That said, Lennar Urban may have what it takes to deal with the Mission’s notorious aversion to housing development and the professional activists who will inevitably find things to dislike in the current proposal.

Lennar is also building housing at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and on Treasure Island – feats which required successfully navigating US Navy bureaucracy, multiple administrations in San Francisco’s City Hall, a  nasty mix of toxics left behind by the Navy’s Cold War nuclear-test programs, and Aaron Peskin. Ultimately, Lennar was not deterred by the radioactive swamps of Hunter’s Point or the USS Pandemonium on Treasure Island, so it will be interesting to see how they fare when confronted with the theatrics of the those who prefer to deal with our housing shortage by opposing the creation of more housing.

IMAGES: Renderings and site plans, via the incomparable SocketSite


Ridiculous 1BR Apartment Rents in Bernal Heights Are Marginally Less Ridiculous


The number-crunchers at the online apartment rental site Zumper recently crunched the numbers to determine the current median rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in various neighborhoods around San Francisco. Not surprisingly, the data reveals the rent is too damn high. Our friends at CurbedSF summarize the story citywide:

Rental site Zumper released a new average rent price map, and it resembles a good steak, with pricey red-meat neighborhoods surrounded by the pale marbling of more affordable destinations.

Zumper reports a slight (2.6 percent) increase in the price of a one bedroom in the city, and a larger (3.8 percent) jump for two bedrooms, but notes that things aren’t as bad as they were at peak prices last summer. Whether this is bad news or not as bad as it could be probably depends on how inured you are to such things.

South Beach, Russian Hill, and the Dogpatch clock as the city’s priciest neighborhoods for renters. South Beach rents are up $140 since Q3 2015, to an average of $3,920. Russian Hill rents increased by $110, to $3,850, but down in the Dogpatch things declined by $170, to $3,810. The previous most expensive neighborhood, the Financial District, declined $380, to $3,800 even.

All that said, when Bernalwood looked at Zumper’s analysis, we were pleasantly surprised to see that median rents in Bernal Heights ($2660) remain on the less-expensive side, relative to comparable nearby ‘hoods such as The Mission ($3300), Potrero Hill ($3570), Glen Park ($2850), and Noe Valley ($3490). So while it would be ridiculous to boast that Bernal is low-rent, we can still boast that we are somewhat lower-rent. Woo-hoo!

Here’s data covering the rest of the city, for the morbidly obsessed:


GRAPHICS: Courtesy of Zumper

Precita Eyes and Residents Avoid Eviction by Buying Precita Park Building


Precita Eyes Mural studio on Precita Park, along with 4 residents of the building at 344 Precita Avenue, have prevailed in their effort to purchase the building from the trustees of the late owner. The effort comes at the end of a long and at times acrimonius struggle to prevent the sale of the building to new owners who might have attempted to evict Precita Eyes and other residents.

The funding required to make the $1.35 million purchase possible was secured by the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA):

The Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) has been able to purchase 344-348 Precita Avenue in San Francisco, so that all tenants can remain at affordable rents.

The commercial tenant is Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, which has for decades created colorful murals, especially in the Mission community. Precita Eyes was nominated as the city’s first legacy business, per Prop J passed by San Francisco voters last November.

The apartments house four working-class residents – educators, musicians and therapists – who have long called the neighborhood home. All tenants were at risk of eviction from buyers looking to flip the building.

Tenant Dennis Mackenzie is thankful to remain in his home of over 30 years. He states, “Thanks to the many good people who made this possible, including MEDA, the San Francisco Community Land Trust, our families, friends, neighbors and others. This deal shows that there are ways to assist people so that we can remain in our longtime homes and businesses without being displaced and forced to move out of San Francisco.”

Community support made this deal a reality, with MEDA’s $400,000 downpayment raised by family, friends, neighbors and building residents, the latter raising over $19,500. The rest of the downpayment, more than $380,000, came from MEDA’s newly launched Neighbor-to-Neighbor (N2N) Fund, a community effort that is the brainchild of Mission resident Spike Kahn, who is also the founder of the nonprofit arts center, Pacific Felt Factory.

Neighbors from the Mission and Bernal Heights were very concerned about the potential loss of the Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, a community arts institution in place for over 40 years on the site. The building’s residents used fundraising efforts, along with the N2N funds, to quickly raise the downpayment within 30 days, and were able to meet the seller’s timeline.

PHOTO: Precita Eyes Mural Center on Precita Park, by Telstar Logistics

Saturday: Community Meeting on Proposed “90+” Units of Senior Housing on Shotwell


There’s a community meeting scheduled for Saturday morning, Saturday, February 13, from 10 am to noon at St. Anthony’s Church (3215 Cesar Chavez) to discuss the 90+-unit senior citizen housing development proposed for 1296 Shotwell Street near Cesar Chavez.

As Bernalwood previously explained:

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 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’s the backstory. The new building will be co-developed by Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), and Karoleen Feng, MEDA Director of Community Real Estate, explains what Saturday’s meeting is all about:

We are planning to have a community meeting on Saturday, Feb. 13, from 10 a.m. To noon, to develop our vision that will help us to better design and program the building. The affordable housing will be for seniors and be 90+ apartments, as requested by the City. Before we solidify our proposal that was submitted to the City, we are hoping to get our community’s ideas for what could be developed, so that we can incorporate as much as possible ― within the parameters of the City’s requirements.

Bernalwood requested renderings of the proposed building, to see if there had been any updates since the previous proposal was unveiled. We also asked for confirmation that the site plan still calls for a nine-story tower. Christopher Gil, MEDA’s content marketing manager declined to confirm this, and told us no rendering is available, because:

The building design is not determined. That is why there are community meetings being held — to let the neighborhood have a say in making this the best senior affordable housing development possible.

Hmm. So we know that the original proposal for the building was for 96 units in a nine-story tower, and we know that the plan for the building still contains “90+ apartments.” But MEDA won’t confirm that the site plan still contains a nine-story tower, and the organization declined to provide any further detail about what the current plan looks like in advance of Saturday’s meeting.

“Community feedback is an integral part of MEDA’s brand of affordable housing,” says MEDA’s Christopher Gil.

Maybe so, but MEDA is also a slick political operator, and this building with 90+ units is also part of MEDA’s brand of affordable housing. So presumably the building is either going to remain at nine-stories, or it is going to have a whole lot of subterranean living spaces — and the latter scenario seems likely.

As I’ve said before, I have a personal stake in this building, because I live a block away, and it will be highly visible from my home. Indeed, it will likely obstruct part of my glamorous downtown skyline view, which I welcome, because we really need more housing of all types in this area, and more density, and this is a good place for it. I welcome more housing, and I don’t mind a tower, and personally, I don’t care if it obstructs my view. Yes in my front yard! But MEDA is not inspiring much confidence in their candor as a real estate developer or future neighbor.

Hopefully we’ll learn more on Saturday.

2004-01252016_CRE-1296 Shotwell Community Planning - Information Meeting Flier_v3

IMAGE: Top, a November 2015 rendering of the nine-story affordable housing project proposed for 1296 Shotwell