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

Former SFMTA surface parking lot will be converted into 131 homes for families

Mayor London N. Breed today celebrated the groundbreaking of 131 new affordable homes at Balboa Park Upper Yard (BPUY). The site is one of two new 100% affordable housing developments to break ground in District 11 in 2021, and will feature a revamped Balboa BART station plaza as part of the complete design. Once construction concludes 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 operated by the YMCA as well as a family resource center.

“Moving forward with affordable housing across San Francisco is critical as we continue to emerge from this pandemic,” said Mayor Breed. “Balboa Park Upper Yard will not only serve the residents of District 11, but it will also shift our City’s housing focus to a more affordable, transit-oriented model. I want to 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 to meet community goals of increased transit ridership, new affordable housing, and improved services for 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 purpose of developing affordable housing. As an interim use, BPUY housed the City’s first Vehicular Triage Center, operated by the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH). HSH operated the Site until January 2021.

“San Francisco is in a housing crisis. The 131 affordable family units at the Balboa Park Upper Yard is a big step in the right direction for District 11 and San Francisco,” said Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. “It has been more than 40 years since our community has built 100 percent affordable family housing. I am proud to have fought for affordable housing units for our working families, with childcare on site, using 100% union labor.” 

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 was one of the first affordable housing developments in the City to receive planning department approval to utilize Senate Bill 35 (SB 35), which in recent years streamlined the approval processes for this infill project and has allowed for construction to begin sooner.  

“Our city needs more housing: for families, for teachers, for seniors, for young people just starting out. We especially need 100% affordable housing for lower-income San Franciscans, many of whom were also negatively financially impacted by the pandemic. The Balboa Park Upper Yard Project is exactly what we need, and I applaud the Mayor’s leadership on getting it approved. I’m thrilled that SB 35, my legislation to streamline approvals for affordable housing, continues to be useful in adding to our affordable housing supply in San Francisco. These 131 new affordable homes will help improve the lives of so many people,” said State Senator and author of SB 35, Scott Wiener.

“For far too long, District 11 has gone without truly affordable, high-quality family housing. With the Balboa Park Upper Yard ground breaking, those days of inequality can finally begin to end,” said Sam Moss, Executive Director, Mission Housing Development Corporation.

The 131-unit development at BPUY, which MHDC is developing in partnership with Related California, 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 pleased to be working with San Francisco’s elected leaders, Mission Housing, BART, and our state housing partners to bring this much-needed, transit-oriented affordable housing to the community,” said Ann Silverberg, CEO, Related California Northern California Affordable and Northwest Divisions. “These types of partnerships are critical if we want to build enough housing to meet demand in San Francisco, and across the region.”

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 to improve bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the area. A brand-new pedestrian plaza will be constructed next to BPUY, and a new vehicle drop-off area will be built simultaneously with the housing units. 

“What’s wonderful is this neighborhood took ownership of the Balboa Park Upper Yard Project from the beginning,” said BART Director Bevan Dufty. “Without their advocacy and input, we wouldn’t be here breaking ground.”

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 $20 million in Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities grant dollars, which includes $13.5 million in housing funds, $3.3 million for BART cars, another $5 million for the BART Plaza, and another $1.1 million for sustainable transportation improvements for 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 State Housing and Community Development department contribution to approximately $33.2 million. Locally, the BART Plaza also received another $1 million from County Transportation Authority from Prop K money for capital costs.

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 41%, 50%, 60%, 82%, and 109% Area Median Income (AMI) or below.

"When our community began the fight to dedicate our public lands towards 100% affordable housing, we didn’t know that it would take a decade to bring our vision to fruition. Communities United for Health & Justice is thrilled to see the Balboa Upper Yard project break ground, but we see this as a call to action, calling upon our City to move more of our public moneys and public policies towards more 100% affordable housing,” said Maria del Rubi Merino, member of PODER.

Major financing for BPUY was provided by a $23.2 million investment from MOHCD that enabled the $120.3 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.