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News + PoliticsHousingWhy 469 Stevenson, the much-hyped project, will provide zero affordable housing for...

Why 469 Stevenson, the much-hyped project, will provide zero affordable housing for SoMa

Look at the numbers. It just doesn't add up. And there was a much better alternative.


Editors note: The absurdity that is 469 Stevenson continues: The Planning Commission approved the project last week, proving that all of the madness over the Board of Supes delaying it was just political hype.

The project has no financing. The developer doesn’t own the site. This will not be built any time soon in this market.

And the city has completely ignored how it could lead to displacement in the community.

But there’s more than that: While the Yimbys rail about how the city has blocked affordable housing, this project would provide zero housing that’s affordable to the people who live in the area.

Here’s what John Elberling, the executive director of TODCO, submitted to the Planning Commission. It explains the exact problem:

First we note for the record the updated project EIR now includes full analysis of the project site’s geotechnical/seismic issues that the original EIR completely omitted. Now, please bear foremost in mind that this longtime Sixth Street Neighborhood with its dozen or more SRO residential hotels is Soma’s last remaining supply of relatively low-rent market housing.

This will do nothing for the neighborhood.

The several thousand tenants of these old buildings are single/two person low-income households. Those who are employed “essential workers” generally earn near-minimum wage, which is now $17/hr, about $2,900 a month, equal to 35+% of San Francisco average median income. Those who are not working often have only federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) of $1,040/month for a single person.

But when you compare how much these Sixth Street residents of today can afford to pay to live in any new project like the proposed 469 Stevenson to the rents that new development will charge – even for the 20 percent of its units (almost 100) required to be affordable Inclusionary Housing by the City, it is clear that none of them could ever afford to live there. This chart shows the full details:


SSI Income now for single person is $1,040 per month = affordable rent of $312/month for Studio unit @ 30% of income

SSI Income now for couple is $1,765 per month = affordable rent of $530/month for One Bedroom unit @ 30% of income

SF Minimum Wage ($17/hr) income now is about $35,000 per year (35+%AMI) $2900 per month = affordable rent of $900/month @ 30% of income

This is why more than three years ago TODCO first asked the 469 Stevenson developer, Build Inc. to dedicate one third of the Nordstrom Parking Lot site closest to Sixth Street to the city for about 150 units of affordable housing development. The value of that land would apply toward the city’s housing fee for a 350-unit market project on the other two thirds of the lot, so would not cost Build anything more.

While the market housing part would be much the same as Build now proposes, the affordable housing part instead would have been new SRO-type housing like the nearby Plaza Apartments affordable development – good new housing Sixth Street’s current SRO residents could actually afford to continue to live in their own neighborhood.

We hear the catchy slogan “Housing For All” proffered by supporters of the Build project. But the facts above show plainly that is a false promise. With regard to 469 Stevenson it would simply not be true. The People of the Sixth Street neighborhood  today where it will be built could never afford to live in it.

For 30 years since the Loma Prieta Earthquake, TODCO worked to stabilize and renew the Sixth Street community to ensure its survival as a last-resort low-income neighborhood and make it a decent place to live for all. These three decades of our community-building vision, as sponsors of the Sixth Street Redevelopment Project, resulted in a dozen new nonprofit affordable housing developments and community facilities including the Bayanihan Center, Bindlestiff Theater, SOMA Health Center Clinic, and the new Bessie Carmichael School/Victoria Manalo Draves Park complex.

So TODCO’s proposal that development of this very large site be shared as real “Housing For All”—both market and low-income affordable housing side by side—is a continuation of our 30-year Vision for the future of the Sixth Street Neighborhood. But let the record show that Build said “No.”

The basic question for all our city is whether the market housing developed due to new requirements of State law in the San Francisco’s longtime lower-income communities, now considered “communities of concern” for displacement of their residents, like our Soma, like the Mission, Tenderloin, Chinatown, Bayview and more, will include the new housing their diverse residents actually could afford so they will be part of the own neighborhoods’ future – or not.

But catchy slogans are not enough to make that happen when politicians just posture—and developers refuse to share.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram


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