Last December when MEDA Assistant Project Manager Veronica Lira first caught a glimpse of 60 28th St. in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights, she knew a significant challenge lay ahead. The building had a staggering 11 Notices of Violation from the City — violations that had been open for three years, leaving the residents in subpar conditions.
MEDA purchased the 60 28th St. property, at below market rate, using the City’s innovative Small Sites Program (SSP). SSP allows nonprofits to buy small apartment buildings — between four and 25 units — with tenants vulnerable to eviction by speculators taking the units off the market. that house tenants who would be vulnerable to eviction should the building be sold and rents raised. In this case, the six-unit property was home to a chef. A musician. Even an Uber driver. One tenant grew up in the building three decades back, and is now raising his own son in the same apartment. Hoping to stay in the building, all tenants organized, appealing for the owner to sell the building to MEDA. He agreed.
However, there was a gap between when the building went on the market and when the City was able to provide SSP funds. The San Francisco Housing Accelerator Fund (SFHAF) stepped into provide a critical bridge loan, as it has for seven other MEDA purchases, allowing the nonprofit to purchase the building within the seller’s time frame, plus fund a rehab to address the building’s violations. “We are thrilled to work with MEDA on another Small Sites project, households in the Mission who, without this acquisition, could have been evicted from their homes and displaced from the neighborhood. We’re proud to have played a role in giving these residents access to the stable, affordable and quality places to call home, “ said Rebecca Foster, Executive Director of SFHAF.
As the City and MEDA seek to jointly preserve not just affordable housing, but quality housing, the latter used allocated SSP monies to tackle its most cumbersome refurbishment job to date. Seeking to keep work in the community and support Latino-owned small businesses, MEDA enlisted the expertise of independent general contractor Miguel Velazquez of Future General Constructions. “This was the first large project I took on as an independent contractor, but with my 18+ years of experience and a 10-person crew, we were definitely up for the task,” states Velazquez. His dedicated crew worked for over 12 weeks to make the numerous repairs on: electrical; plumbing; roof leaks; extensive dry rot/siding; some windows; interior painting for a much-needed refresh; and all apartments, as needed, from upgraded bathrooms and kitchens to brand-new flooring.
Additionally, two major repairs needed by Future General Construction: the property’s main sewer line needed replacement; and the City mandated a soft-story retrofit to ensure resident safety in case of an earthquake.
Throughout the process, Lira worked diligently to to ensure that tenants felt comfortable with the rehab. That meant staying in constant communication so that all residents were aware of the construction process and timeline, which would, unfortunately, include three months of relocation.
“The completion of 60 28th Street is another example of MEDA’s great housing preservation work. We are grateful to the MEDA team for their ongoing contributions to San Francisco’s permanently affordable housing. We also applaud the work of SFHAF, whose financing makes these preservation actions possible,” says Kate Hartley, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.
“This project qualifies as a model to emulate,” explains Housing Inspector Anthony Lepe of the San Francisco Department of Building Inspections. “The MEDA ownership and its contractor worked cooperatively, collaboratively and with alacrity to correct all outstanding code violations — providing an example DBI hopes others will replicate.”
On September 26, residents moved back in to refurbished apartments, which now felt more like home. Bernadette, a current tenants, said: “Not only is the apartment great, but I’ve come to realize that when you have nice things you feel better about yourself. It’s definitely a mood lifter and confidence creator. So, by improving our environment my self-esteem is improved. Please let everyone involved know about the goodness they are bringing into people’s lives.”
“I am proud of my part of the work MEDA did to create not just affordable housing, but also quality housing for the residents who had long lived in difficult conditions,” says Lira. “Thanks to MOHCD for allowing our nonprofit to continue this important work, SFHAF for providing much-need financing and Future General Construction for all of their hard work. MEDA especially wants to thank our tenants for organizing to make this sale possible, plus for their patience and trust while these many needed repairs were being made.”
They say it takes a village. And that village is San Francisco.