189-Unit Affordable Housing Project Approved by San Francisco Planning Commission

San Francisco, Mission District, The Prime Company, San Francisco Housing Authority, San Francisco Planning Commission, United to Save the Mission, Manhattan, Bay Area

By Kate Snyder

With city and county officials throughout Northern California expressing concerns about the lack of affordable housing, a new residential project for San Francisco’s Mission District designed around affordability recently gained approval from the city’s planning commission. During its Jan. 26 meeting, the San Francisco Planning Commission voted in favor of a 189-unit building with a commitment to the San Francisco Housing Authority voucher program.

“Our design objective for the development was affordability by design,” said Chris Elsey, owner of The Prime Company, which is the developer for the project. “We do have a mandatory 25 percent affordability component…. We’re going to be offering the remaining units through first-right-of-refusal to the San Francisco Housing Authority where they can use the housing choice voucher program to help facilitate affordable housing. So United to Save the Mission and their different organizations have been made aware of that and are supportive of that.”

Headquartered in Manhattan, Kan., The Prime Company is a multifamily development firm that designs, builds and manages urban properties across the nation, according to the company’s website. Elsey told commissioners that the company has its own in-house architects and acts as its own general contractor.

The project would be located at 1500-1528 15th St. and would be an 11-story, 120-foot tall and 72,289 square foot mixed-use building, according to city records. Group housing rooms would be located on floors two through 11 and each floor includes shared living spaces with a kitchen and dining area. Each unit is self-contained with its own bathroom and kitchenette that includes a microwave and stove top. Out of the total units, 19 are slated to be rented out at $1,000 per month, which project representatives highlighted as one of the lowest rents in the city.

Comments from members of the public that were shared during the meeting were all in favor of the project, with multiple people noting the benefits that the proposal could bring to the city, particularly the $1,000 rent reserved for a certain number of units. Planning commissioners were also largely pleased with the plans, and just a few had comments or questions during the short discussion. There was a request for more details about how the agreement to accept housing vouchers would work with United to Save the Mission, a local coalition dedicated to protecting and enhancing the Mission neighborhood, and Elsey explained that the program would work continuously for any vacant unit.

“What we’re really committing to is accepting the housing choice vouchers through the San Francisco Housing Authority,” he said. “And so every unit that comes up, we will send it to USM and they will disseminate it to various organizations….Not only that, but once they live there and once somebody would potentially move out, it goes in perpetuity. So it would go back to them and give that first-right-of-refusal to them.”

In addition to the residential space, there would also be approximately 2,871 square feet of ground-floor commercial space. Below grade, plans also include a gym, shared living areas, tenant laundry, bicycle parking and mechanical rooms. Open space would total nearly 5,000 square feet with a 1,295 square foot rear courtyard and a 3,665 square foot roof deck. The site’s existing building, automotive sales and smog check facility, would be demolished, but Elsey told the commissioners that the site’s current use is mostly a parking lot.

“I think this project has gained an attractiveness because of the strong community involvement and the concessions that were made,” said Commissioner Kathrin Moore. “I’m very, very happy that you were able to … come to an agreeable solution.”

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