City celebrates ceremonial groundbreaking of 100% affordable housing on Balboa Park Upper Yard

Former SFMTA surface parking lot will be converted into 131 homes for families
October 21, 2020

Mayor London N. Breed today participated in the ceremonial groundbreaking of 131 affordable homes at Balboa Park Upper Yard (BPUY). The site is one of two new 100% affordable housing developments getting underway in District 11, and will feature a revamped Balboa Park BART station plaza as part of the total design. Once completed in 2023, the transit-oriented development will feature a number of community benefits, including a licensed early childhood education center with an outdoor activity area and family resource center.

The development advances the City’s strategy for economic recovery, which is centered in stimulating new job creation and investing in infrastructure that ensures San Francisco’s post-COVID-19 economy emerges more equitable and resilient than before. Pursuing the development of 131 units of new affordable housing, including onsite childhood education and incorporating multiple modes of transportation makes progress on several recommendations made by the Economic Recovery Task Force and illustrates the City’s efforts to retain and support its residents.

“Moving forward with affordable housing now is critical as we work to get on the road to recovery,” said Mayor Breed. “This project will create badly needed new affordable homes in a part of the city that hasn’t seen much new housing, and it will bring jobs at a time when we need to get people back to work. I want to recognize Supervisor Safaí for his leadership in fighting to move affordable housing project forward, and thank everyone who has helped make this project possible.”

In 2012, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors approved the sale of the BPUY to other partner agencies in order to meet community goals of increased transit ridership, new affordable housing and improved services to residents, consistent with The Balboa Park Station Area Plan. The BPUY site, a former SFMTA surface parking lot, was transferred to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) in 2018 for the purposes of developing affordable housing. As an interim use, the site has been serving as the City’s first Vehicular Triage Center, which was created as a pilot program to provide a secure location and services for people who are living in their vehicles. The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing will continue to operate the Center through January 2021.

“I am extremely proud to bring 131 units of affordable workforce housing to District 11,” said Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. “By creating affordable workforce housing, District 11 will be able to retain its cultural and economic diversity, this means that working families such as janitors, teachers and nurses will be able to live in the city they work in — a win for all. This housing is also emblematic of the great things that can be achieved when all stakeholders work toward a common goal. Thanks to Mayor Breed, Mission Housing, the community and everyone else who helped bring this project to fruition.”

In September 2016, MOHCD selected Related California (Related) and Mission Housing Development Corporation (MHDC) to develop, own, and operate the family housing proposed for the Site. BPUY is the first affordable housing development in the City to receive planning department approval to utilize Senate Bill 35, which has streamlined the approval processes for this infill project and will allow construction to start sooner.

“Mission Housing is honored to help develop such an important community asset,” said Sam Moss, Executive Director, Mission Housing Development Corporation. “The Balboa Park Upper Yard represents the best of what we can accomplish when the community works together to build something truly beautiful.”

The 131-unit development at BPUY, which is being developed by MHDC in partnership with Related, has 39 apartments set aside for existing HOPE SF residents voluntarily relocating from the Sunnydale-Velasco public housing site. Amenities at BPUY will include a 3,994-square-foot licensed early childhood education center, a family wellness community resource center operated by MHDC’s resident services department, and a commercial space operated by PODER, a grassroots environmental justice organization, for bicycle maintenance.

“We’re proud to be working with the Mayor, Supervisor Safaí, BART and our community partner, Mission Housing, to develop this mixed-use community adjacent to public transportation that will provide the residents of District 11 the housing and services they deserve,” said Bill Witte, Chairman and CEO, Related California. “We cannot let the pandemic distract us from our work to make San Francisco a more equitable city.”

As part of the funding applications, the developers worked closely with BART and SFMTA to complete a redesign of the southern portion of the Balboa Park BART Station Plaza, in order to improve bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the area. The result will be a brand-new pedestrian plaza next to BPUY and a new vehicle drop off area will that be built at the same time as the housing.

“The Balboa Park Upper Yard project and new BART plaza are smart investments in this vibrant neighborhood,” said Bevan Dufty, Member of the BART Board of Directors. “Transit-oriented development, advancing affordable housing and safe pedestrian and bicycle access, builds complete communities with vital access to jobs, services, and cultural destinations by BART.”

BPUY is supported by California Strategic Growth Council’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program (AHSC) with funds from California Climate Investments—Cap-and-Trade Dollars at Work. The developers submitted a successful application for nearly $30 million in grant dollars, which includes $20 million in housing funds, $3.3 million for new BART cars, another $5 million for the BART Plaza and another $1.2 million for Ocean Avenue bike and pedestrian safety improvements, in partnership with the SFMTA. Residents of the new building will also receive free Muni passes for three years. In addition, the developers were awarded an Infrastructure Infill Grant to fill the Plaza gap for another $3.5 million, bringing the total contribution from the State to approximately $33.2 million. Locally, the BART Plaza also received another $1 million for capital costs from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority from Prop K.

“The Balboa Park Upper Yard exemplifies the type high-quality, transit-oriented development the California Strategic Growth Council is proud to support,” said Louise Bedsworth, Executive Director, California Strategic Growth Council. “We congratulate the project partners on today’s groundbreaking, and commend them for working with the community to realize affordable housing options that connect San Francisco families with transit and active transportation, green spaces, and on-site childcare – all while reducing the emissions that contribute to climate change.”

“HCD is proud to be a small part of this giant accomplishment,” said Gustavo Velasquez, Director, California Department of Housing and Community Development. “With funding from our Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities and Infill Infrastructure Grant programs and an ongoing partnership with the City of San Francisco, we continue to fund housing that supports the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals and creates healthier communities and Californians by making it easier for residents and neighbors to live near the things they need so they can walk, bike, and take transit.”

The nine-story building, designed by Mithun includes studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom apartments. Once complete, the new homes will be available to applicants with a broad range of incomes including 40%, 50%, 74% and 104% Area Median Income (AMI) or below. Communities United for Health and Justice led a diverse coalition of District 11 residents to partner with key stakeholders on the design of BPUY.

“This has been a true neighborhood-wide effort, with diverse community residents planning and leading the way, combining the first-hand knowledge and expertise of numerous community members,” said Jessie Fernandez, program manager, Communities United for Health and Justice. “Together we have flipped the script of community development by forging a bold community-based vision first. The Upper Yard represents the very best in collaboration between the community and decision makers. Our success at the Balboa Upper Yard should set an example of people-focused planning for our ever-changing city to always keep its people at the forefront.”

Major financing for BPUY was provided by a $32.5 million investment from MOHCD that enabled the $122.8 million project to move forward. Operating subsidies will be delivered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Project Based Voucher program administered by the San Francisco Housing Authority.