A Big Change: Small Sites Program Used by MEDA to Convert 4830 Mission St. into Affordable Housing

When MEDA recently closed on its 22nd Small Sites Program building, it signaled a reimagining of how the innovative City initiative could not just preserve affordable housing, but actually create it.

All prior MEDA Small Sites Program purchases already featured rent-controlled units: This is a targeted approach to keep tenants, vulnerable to no-fault eviction by speculators, in their homes. In contrast, four-story 4830 Mission St. has never been a rent-controlled building, being that it was constructed in 1990. (San Francisco offers rent control only on apartments built prior to June 13, 1979.)

That’s why realtors blatantly marketed this property to showcase the fact that this was a “rare opportunity to own a non-rent-controlled building,” making residents susceptible to rent increases once ownership changed hands.

Explains Community Organizer Jessie Fernandez of PODER of the reprehensible act by speculators at a nearby Excelsior property: “Six-unit 400 London St. is home to the three commercial uses of Pacita’s Bakery, The Salad Place and Los Planes de Renderos, plus three long-term residential tenants. Uses such as these are an incredible asset to the neighborhood and are examples of the heart and soul of the commercial corridor. Upon purchase in 2017, the new owner moved to increase rents for the longtime mom-and-pop businesses by $3,000 per month and proceeded to intimidate business owners into prematurely signing new leases at triple the rent. Avoiding gentrification means standing behind our deeply rooted — yet highly vulnerable — businesses and tenants with concrete protections as we champion their right to thrive in this neighborhood. Small Sites is one of the few programs available to mitigate this kind of unconscionable speculation and provide stability for existing communities.”

Thankfully, a similar egregious fate as that of 400 London St. will now not be the case for 4830 Mission St., with part of the reason being that the seller wanted to protect the tenants, so he worked with MEDA on coming up with a fair price. Additionally, the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) gave a nod to the deal, even though the property has two more units than the usual 25 maximum. Part of the reason for the approval is that the City subsidy was lower than usual at under $200,000 per unit — normally $350,000.

The building showcases a diverse community within a community, with many multi-generational families of children, parents and seniors. There are varied income levels: The median household income overall is an Area Median Income (AMI) of 73 percent, while 66 percent of tenants have an average household AMI of 57 percent. Seven households are below 80 percent AMI.

States MEDA Community Real Estate Associate Director Johnny Oliver, “Our Vivienda Adelante – 4830 Mission St. purchase is a game-changer. We will ensure this property remains permanently affordable for all residential and commercial tenants, who could have been in for substantial rent increases in San Francisco’s ever-escalating market. That could have translated to displacement of many who now call 4830 Mission St. home. We thank the owner, residents, partner organizations, MOHCD and City officials for being part of saving these homes. Additionally, the San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund (SFHAF) financing was critical, so thanks to them as well.”

The building features a mix of Latino and Filipino families. To help with outreach to the latter, South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN) Filipino Tenant Community Counselor Gene Alejo was enlisted, as he showcases experience providing outreach, counseling and legal-referral services to San Francisco’s Filipino community.

Per Alejo: “Similar to SoMa, there are a large number of Filipino residents in the Excelsior. It was a worthwhile experience to help Filipino tenants living at 4830 Mission St., not only because we share the same language and culture, but because we have similar perspectives of residents being able to stay in this neighborhood. To maintain the cultural diversity and combat gentrification in the Excelsior, it is crucial to share the benefits of the Small Sites Program. It helps assure these families that they deserve to stay in their existing units and this neighborhood.”

Showcasing the reassurance families now feel is a three-generation clan from Vivienda Adelante – 4830 Mission St., the Jardelezas. Says Ely Jardeleza, “MEDA buying the building is a big relief. There have been years when we had higher rent increases. Now we don’t have to worry about that happening.”

Using a City program, MEDA will also look to add two accessible dwelling units (ADUs) in the rear garage, creating additional affordable housing. The 30,600-square-foot, 27-unit midrise currently comprises six one-bedrooms, 15 two-bedrooms, a laundry, parking for 20 cars and six commercial spaces. The latter includes such small ventures as a TV repair shop and a nail salon, these family-serving businesses now able to stay in the neighborhood.

On a geographical level, Vivienda Adelante – 4830 Mission St. in the Excelsior signals a shift to other neighborhoods where Latinos have a strong presence in San Francisco. Prior MEDA Small Sites Program purchases have primarily focused on the Mission and neighboring Bernal Heights.

States District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, who represents the Excelsior, “When MEDA told us about the potential to purchase 27 non-rent-control units and to preserve affordable housing for many vulnerable immigrant families, we jumped! 4830 Mission St. is the first Small Sites acquisition in District 11 and the largest in the City’s history. I’m thankful to MEDA, PODER, SOMCAN, MOHCD and the SFHAF for moving into action. This is a win for our immigrant families who fear displacement and gentrification and who make-up District 11’s rich tapestry of cultures.”

Echoes MEDA’s Oliver, “The Excelsior is now 40 percent Latino, and a number of our of clients have moved to the neighborhood from the Mission, so MEDA is taking a comprehensive approach to stemming displacement of our Latino community, especially across San Francisco’s southeastern quadrant.” 

With Vivienda Adelante – 4830 Mission St. now closed, MEDA’s Small Sites Program number of units in the fold makes a big jump: There are now 178 homes saved: 155 residential; and 23 commercial.

This is great news for the Mission, Bernal Heights and, now, the Excelsior. It is important for the City to prioritize this major anti-displacement preservation strategy of taking units off the private market across all neighborhoods in San Francisco.

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