Renderings Unveiled for Proposed 96 Units of Senior Citizen Housing on Shotwell



YIMBYs rejoice! Renderings have finally been unveiled for a $40 million project to construct a nine-story building at 1296 Shotwell Street, just off Cesar Chavez, to provide 96 units of housing for lower-income senior citizens. Funding for the project will mostly come from a variety of public sources, including federal grants and San Francisco housing funds. Mission Local broke the story:

The Mission Economic Development Agency, an established neighborhood non-profit but a newcomer to the affordable housing game, is partnering once again with the experienced Chinatown Community Development Corporation to construct the senior housing complex. It will allocate 20 percent of its units to formerly homeless seniors and the remainder will go to seniors with annual incomes between $21,400 and $35,700.

This is great news, and we really need more housing, so your Bernalwood editor remains a big fan of this project even though it will definitely block some of my glamorous downtown view. Let’s build it! But let’s also look at some of the details:

Right now, 1296 Shotwell is basically a shed that’s home to a few automotive repair shops. The history of this project is intimately tied to the Vida market-rate development at 2558 Mission Street that also created the soon-to-open Alamo Drafthouse Cinema inside the restored New Mission theater. Vida is a 114-unit, market-rate project in which the developer opted to meet their inclusionary housing requirements by purchasing 1296 Shotwell Street as a land dedication site for use by San Francisco to create affordable housing. This means the City basically received the land at 1296 Shotwell for free. And presumably, since 1296 Shotwell will be senior housing, each of the units in the new building will be relatively small, although the height of the building gives it significant density. That probably explains why, even with donated land and many small units, 1296 Shotwell pencils out at the relatively low price of $417,000 per unit. Prop A, the affordable housing bond passed in the election this month, will help pay for 1296 Shotwell.

Also by way of context, the Mission neighborhood nonprofit partner for 1296 Shotwell is Mission Economic Development Agency. MEDA has been in operation since the 1970s, mostly as a community assistance organization providing educational and small-business support services to Latino families in the Mission. More recently, MEDA has branched out into housing development. MEDA was a major backer of the recent Proposition I push to establish a moratorium on market-rate housing in the Mission, and Gabriel Medina, MEDA’s policy director, managed the Yes On I campaign from MEDA’s headquarters at 2301 Mission Street. Prop I was rejected by voters in the election earlier this month.

Also, by way of further clarification, Bernalwood’s understanding is that 1296 Shotwell is separate from 1515 South Van Ness, the previously-discussed Lennar development that seeks to create 160 units of market-rate housing on the site of the former McMillan Electric warehouse (which was itself originally the site of the Lesher-Muirhead Oldsmobile dealership).  This diagram shows how the two proposed development sites fit together:


As far as we know, none of the proposed developments will impact the (rather charming) Johns’s British Motor Car repair shop that fronts Cesar Chavez, nor the AutoZone store with its very fashionable view of Bernal Hill.

That’s a lot of change coming soon to one Bernal-adjascent block, but it it’s good to see positive efforts to put a dent in our housing shortage. At last.

NIMBY Neighbors Seek to Appeal Approved New Housing at Board of Supervisors



A group of Bernal neighbors hope the Board of Supervisors will overturn plans to build four new homes on a patch of private land  where Powhattan and Bernal Heights Boulevard converge on the south side of Bernal Hill.

The site is zoned for development, and the proposal has already been approved by the Planning Department. SocketSite tells us what happened next:

A subdivision of the 7,500-square-foot, triangular-shaped lot at 40 Bernal Heights Boulevard was approved by the City two months ago, setting the stage for four new single-family homes – the building permits for which have already been requested – to rise across the site.

As designed, the new two-story over garage homes would total 12,058 square feet of gross space, or roughly 3,000 square feet apiece, including garages and decks. The finished living space for the homes would average around 2,100 square feet each.

And within ten days of being approved, an appeal of the subdivision was filed.

From the objecting group of Bernal Heights Neighbors in their appeal to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors:

“This lot is one of the last open space hillsides on East Slope of Bernal, and offers commanding views to pedestrians, bike riders, car passengers, and commuters on the 67 Bernal Heights bus.

Our primary objection to this development, however, is that it is too large and too dense for the space, and for the neighborhood. The four houses proposed for this space are hugely out of proportion with surrounding houses, even those built at the height of the 1960s square-box trend. Properties within a 300′ radius of the proposed development average 1313 square feet of livable space on lots averaging 2064 square feet. The developers of this lot, however, flip this ratio, proposing to build four luxury houses averaging 2139 square feet of livable space (with garages and roof decks that can take that square footage close to or over 3000 square feet), on lots averaging only 1903 square feet…

The patch of land in question is certainly nice, and the views are terrific, so it’s easy to understand why those who live nearby excited by the proposed new housing.


Except…. It’s not their property, and it’s not public property, and it’s unfortunate that a group of neighbors who themselves likely live in million-dollar homes are using the “luxury housing” trope to oppose the construction of new houses that would give a few more families the opportunity to become our Bernal neighbors.

Bernal has extremely strict planning codes, spelled out by the  Bernal Heights Special Use District. If these new homes conform to those guidelines, their density and design will meet the standards that we as a neighborhood agreed upon. The Planning Department says there are no major problems with the proposed design. Socketsite quotes the Planning Department’s response to the neighbors’ concerns:

From San Francisco’s Planning Department in response:

“We urge the Board of Supervisors to reject this appeal; to consider these issues at this time could thwart the well-established, thoughtful and public review process that occurs at the time the Planning and Building permit review takes place, which also include rights of appeal. Both Planning staff and the Commission (if Discretionary Review is requested) can contribute to the discourse on massing; and provide specific direction relative to the applicable design guidelines. Further, we would suggest…that a project where the lot is subdivided into three parcels, instead of four may result in three larger houses than the four houses currently under review.”

SocketSite says the Board of Supervisors will consider this subdivision during a meeting scheduled for December 1.

PHOTOS: Site photos, Telstar Logistics. Aerial map, via SocketSite

Bernal Tops List of SF Neighborhoods with Most Growth in $1M+ Homes

According to the number-crunchers from the online real estate site Trulia, 63% of all homes in San Francisco are now valued at $1 million or more. But which San Francisco neighborhood has seen most growth in the concentration of million-dollar homes? Gird your loins, humble neighbors, because that dubious distinction belongs to us.

Indeed, Trulia estimates that 87% of all Bernal Heights homes are now worth more than a million bucks. (Their calculation is based on the estimated value of each home, independent of whether or not its actually for sale.)

After looking at the same data, SF Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius wrote about this strange new reality last week while describing the situation of Neighbor Jennifer and Neighbor Russ:

In June 2014, Jennifer Ott and her husband, Russ Poldrack, bought a house in Bernal Heights for just under $1 million.

It’s a fixer-upper.

It needs such extensive renovation that it scared off house flippers who speculate in the white-hot real-estate market, Ott says. That’s why, she says, they were able to land what she jokingly calls “the ugliest house in the nicest neighborhood we could afford.”

A year later the house is valued at $1.2 million, and Ott says there’s no way they could afford it now.

They got in just in time.

Only five years ago, 7 percent of the houses in Bernal Heights were valued at $1 million or more. Today, more than 86 percent are million-dollar homes.

That astounding fact was rooted out by housing economist Ralph McLaughlin, who produced a study for the real-estate web site Trulia on the spike in housing values across the city from 2010 to 2015.

But, but… why? Why have home values in Bernal increased with such nose bleed-inducing quickness? Bernalwood also reached out to Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia’s housing economist, for some explanation. He told us:

With respect to market dynamics, Bernal Heights likely made the top of our list because of it’s relative proximity to already expensive neighborhoods in 2010. In 2010, Bernal Heights didn’t have many $1 million dollar homes, but was in very close proximity to Noe Valley, Portrero Hill, and the Mission, which did. So as demand increased between 2010-2015, $1 million dollar homes spilled over into other “bargain” neighborhoods that were close by, such as Bernal Heights. A similar phenomenon occurred in the Central and Outer Sunset, which were in close proximity to other million dollar neighborhoods in 2010 (Forest Hill and West Portal).

Your August 2015 Bernal Heights Real Estate Report: 20 Homes Sold, Average Price $1.3 Million


Let’s just cut to the chase: According to the August 2015 Bernal Heights sales report prepared by Downing and Company, the pace of home sales in our neighborhood remains brisk. Prices are lofty as well, with the average sale price in August weighing in at (ooof!) $1.3 million. Downing says:

August was a busy month for home sales in Bernal Heights. A total of 20 transactions were completed which was a spike compared to most months where the number of transactions often register in the low to mid teens.

The market remains hot with elevated prices and quick transactions. The average home price last month in Bernal Heights clocked in at $1.3 million. With tight market conditions and sellers in control homes were on the market for an average of only 20 days before going under contract.

For homebuyers looking to purchase for less than $1 million – alas there is still some hope in Bernal Heights. Three homes traded under that threshold last month (63 Arnold Ave, 1510 York St, and 29 Cuvier St.).

Click through to see details and specifics on each of the Bernal home sales shown above.

IMAGE: August 2015 homes sold montage from Downing and Co.

Cortland Neighbor May Leave Bernal After 130% Rent Increase



Last week, Bernalwood received a heartbreaking note from Neighbor Bianca, who is reluctantly vacating her apartment on Cortland (near Andover) after being notified of a 130% rent increase. She tells Bernalwood:

It is to my great dismay that as a four-year Bernal resident, I have been officially notified of a rental increase. The 2-unit building I live in was sold about 4 months back to Citibrokers, Inc.

I found the notice of my rental increase coldly slapped and taped onto the front gate of my 2 bedroom apartment. I have attached the picture of the main document.

My unit is considered a “Single-Family Unit” because the building consists just of my apartment and a nail salon below. That makes it exempt from rent control. I spoke with the SF Rental Board, they said the rent increase was legal. It would seem pointless to attempt to fight it/hire a lawyer

As an On-Call Biologist at the Exploratorium and a part-time bartender at a music venue in the Mission, I simply do not make enough money to afford this new increase. With this, I must leave the Bay as I have run out of options for myself and my pup, Karma.

I hope this serves as a bleak warning to the rest of our beloved Bernal locals.  I want to sound the alarm so other residents brush up on their rights and keep in touch with the landlord with regard to any future sales plans. My prior landlord didn’t even tell me when he sold the building! It wasn’t until a real estate agent was at my door, asking to come in for measurements. Sigh.

I absolutely adore this neighborhood and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the city. I’m going to truly miss Bernal Heights…it’s a special slice of paradise hidden in the noise and chaos of SF.  It saddens me deeply it must end like this.


(Biologist, Bartender, Bernal & Dog Lover, Silly Cross-Stitcher)

Grrrrrrrr. Coming shortly after the 355% rent increase that drove Neighbor Deb from her apartment on Bocana earlier in the year, this is a tough story to hear.

Meanwhile, if anyone has any leads on potential housing options for Neighbor Bianca here in Bernal, please contact Bernalwood. We’ll make sure the information gets to her ASAP.

PHOTOS: via Neighbor Bianca

Former Tenant Sues Over Eye-Popping Rent Increase at 355 Bocana


The dust has settled in the messy matter of 355 Bocana, the house where renter Deb Follingstad was hit with a shocking 315% rent increase by property owner and lifelong Bernal resident Nadia Lama last March. Since then, Neighbor Nadia has moved into the house, and Neighbor Deb has been stringing together temporary arrangements while she looks for a more stable place to live.

Yet the incident still stings, apparently, and last week Neighbor Deb filed a wrongful eviction lawsuit. Lamar Anderson from San Francisco Magazine broke the story:

The complaint, filed on August 18 in San Francisco Superior Court, characterizes the rent increase as an effective eviction and a violation of the city’s Rent Ordinance. According to the suit, which also names Lama’s sisters, ontime property managers Claudia and Antoinette Lama, Nadia Lama moved into the unit after Follingstad left. Instead of going through the no-fault eviciton procedure allowed under the Rent Ordinance for owner move-ins, the suit alleges, Lama attempted to go around the law by forcing Follingstad out with a drastic rent increase. In a normal no-fault eviction, Follingstad would have been entitled to a relocation payment of $9,258.67, according to the suit. Instead, she got no relocation money, and Lama even kept her $1,500 security deposit, Follingstad says.

Her attorney, Joseph Tobener, says, “I think it’s unfortunate that it’s come to this.” When Nadia Lama gave notice of the rent increase, he says, “We sent a letter saying, Let’s resolve this. This client’s willing to work with you.”

Follingstad’s story, which swept local media last spring and provoked neighborhood backlash against the Lama family, gave San Franciscans a crash course in the intricacies of tenant law. Through a loophole in the law, Follingstad’s sudden $6,755 rent hike appeared to be legal. In San Francisco, rent control covers most rentals with a certificate of occupancy predating June 1979, if they are in multiunit buildings. Follingstad lived in a two-unit building and was covered by rent control. But the lower-level unit was illegal, which made it easy to demolish—that is, remove the plumbing that made it a habitable dwelling unit—without permission from the Planning Department. When Lama pulled the toilet out of the lower-level unit, in February, it became de-facto “storage space” for Follingstad’s apartment, and voila, she was suddenly living in a single-family home, and no longer protected by rent control. (Lama had only taken over the property in January, after resolving a legal dispute with her sisters, Claudia Lama and Antoinette Lama, who had been acting as landlords ever since the original landlord, their father Chuck Lama, died in 2012.)

This is a complicated, two-sided tale, so it’s time well-spent to read the whole thing.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

Bids Due, Tensions High as Trustee Says Precita Eyes Seeks to “Force Family to Sell to Them”


It’s been a big week for 348 Precita Avenue, the multi-unit building on Precita Park that’s long been home to the Precita Eyes mural studio. 348 Precita is for sale, and Precita Eyes hopes to avoid possible eviction by deterring would-be buyers from bidding on the property. (For more backstory, read Bernalwood’s item about this from  Monday.)

Here at week’s end, let’s catch up on where thing stand.

Neighbor Ledia dropped by Precita Eyes during a Protest Art Class for kids on Tuesday, where she learned more about Precta Eyes, their history in Precita Park, their other property holdings, and their (at times confusing) arrangement with the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA). Neighbor Ledia tells Bernalwood:

Went to the free art class and talked to Precita Eyes today: Now I understand.

So Precita Eyes wants the owners [of 348 Precita] to accept MEDAs offer to buy the building, which has 3 residential units plus the commercial Precita Eyes space, for $1 million.

It’s obviously “worth” more. MEDA would then be the owner/landlord, with the possibly of current tenants being able to buy their spaces in some way.

348 is the original Precita Eyes space. Precita Eyes has been around since 1977, and in this space since 1982. In 1998, [Precita Eyes founder Susan Cervantes] bought the Precita Eyes space on 24th St., so the organization also has that.

The goal of the free art class/gathering is to discourage offers on the building, other than MEDA’s lowball offer.

This provides helpful context. Precita Eyes uses 348 Precita as a satellite facility, and in the comments to Monday’s post, several Bernal neighbors noted that the studio at 348 is rarely occupied. (As a neighbor, Bernalwood can confirm this.) The Precita Eyes branch at 2981 24th Street is the organization’s main office, but we did not know (and Mission Local confirms) that Precita Eyes actually owns the 24th Street building. That means the future of Precita Eyes on 24th Street is secure.

Of course, there are two sides to every transaction, and in the comments to Bernalwood’s Monday post, a member of the family that’s selling 348 Precita shared some details (which are merged here for clarity):

My name is Michael Silva. I am not the owner of 348 Precita (certainly not the only owner), but only the trustee of my late mom’s estate.

I am a member of the family that owns this property. Our presence in SF dates back to before the 1906 earthquake (they camped out in the park during the repairs). It has been in our family for a hundred years. Look up August &Minnie Schmidt in the 1915 online directory.


1915 San Francisco Directory, via Bernalwood

One of the owners is the 83 year old granddaughter of August and Minnie. Another is a great-grandson who worked all his life in SF until he had to retire under medical disability, and who has had multiple surgeries to help the back injuries he suffered while working as a printer. His entire life savings consists of $11,000.

These are the owners to whom Precita Eyes is trying to dictate sale terms. This is the one and only commercial property the family owns, in SF or anywhere else. We are not “big investors” by any stretch of the imagination.

I am actually just the Trustee of my mom’s estate (born in SF in 1932). She and her twin sister co-owned the property until she passed away a few years ago. Now my mom’s estate, along with her twin sister, are trying to sell the property. And Precita Eyes is trying to make sure we do not receive fair market value for a property that has been in our family for at least 100 years.

What Precita Eyes is trying to do is to force the family to sell to them, on their terms and on their terms alone, and obviously below market value (or else they would just submit their bid along with any other potential buyers). Who thinks this is moral behavior on their part?

This sets up a curious dynamic. In a town where one’s standing on questions of housing policy and social entitlement often correlates to how long you’ve lived here, the story of 348 Precita now contrasts a nonprofit arts organization that’s been in Bernal for 30+ years with a multigenerational family that’s been in Bernal for 100.

Last Tuesday, there was a open house at at 348 Precita for potential buyers to view the property. Precita Eyes put signs in the windows, brought in some local kids for an ad hoc protest art class, invited a few journalists from around town to drop by, and launched their campaign to ward off potential bidders.

Sarah Hotchkiss from KQED Arts was there:

As toddlers covered in tempera paint plastered their hand prints all over sheets of paper, community members surrounded the building holding their own pieces of paper, printed with the message, “Please do not BUY this building!! This is a community space!”


Photo: KQED

The organization staged the protest after landlords posted a brand-new For Sale sign on the studio center’s exterior the week before. Though Precita Eyes owns its arts and visitors center at 2981 24th St, they have rented the 348 Precita Ave space since 1977.

While impending doom lingers in the air, the building’s residents are not without hope. The Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), with advice from the San Francisco Community Land Trust (SFCLT), plans to make a bid on the property, which, if successful, will safeguard Precita Eyes and the residential tenants against eviction by forming a cooperative.

The dispatch from Mission Local’s reporter captured the kabuki-like flavor of the scene, as the participants performed familiar roles:

“We’re hoping to dissuade other prospective buyers from outbidding MEDA,” explained Nancy Pili Hernández, a Precita Eyes muralist.

Several prospective buyers came and went without comment. Some stopped to talk with the activists and neighbors standing outside. In some cases, the exchanges became heated.  Pili Hernández said one potential buyer became incensed when a woman approached him asking his intentions for the building. Pili Hernández said the man told the woman he would put in an offer for $2 million and evict her.

That’s the kind of possibility that makes Randy Odell, an upstairs resident of 30 years, uneasy.

“It’s no fun having your home threatened.” Odell said. “When you have no right to keep people from coming in and looking at your home, and sussing out the value, it’s very hard to keep my dignity.”

Other potential buyers took a more diplomatic approach.

Micheal Zook, a San Francisco native and former building manager who was once evicted from a building he lived and worked in for 20 years, now works as a realtor but was considering the building as a potential home for himself, his wife and his children. He talked at length with community organizers about the property and how displacement could be avoided.

So what happens next?

Although the drama of 348 Precita is playing out in 2015, this story is really a flashback to the proto-gentrification tensions of 1970s Bernal Heights, when a young generation of activist Baby Boomers arrived and set out to transform Bernal in their own image, sometimes to the dismay of the older, blue-collar families who already lived here.

Back then, however, San Francisco’s population was in decline, and Bernal Heights was considered a faded part of town.  Homes were cheap,  rents were cheaper, Precita Park was rough, and Bernal was a funky bohemian backwater. Today, San Francisco’s population has grown by almost 200,000 since 1980, Bernal is a prime location, Precita Park is a four-star destination, countercultural lifestyles are difficult to afford, and the median home price in the neighborhood hovers around $1.4 million. A big property like 348 Precita could obviously fetch more.

But should it? Will it? We’ll find out soon; Mike Silva tells Bernalwood the last bids for the property are coming in today.

PHOTOS: Top, Precita Eyes studio by Telstar Logistics