San Francisco – Community activists battled the city for 25 years to have affordable housing, not an office high-rise, replace a torn-down hotel near downtown. Their fight has been rewarded with the construction of International Hotel Senior Housing.

The project involved three separate air parcels, one for a Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco building, one for the related school, and one for the new 105-unit seniors project. The school and the seniors housing are built over a four-story garage, and each piece of the project was intertwined in design but not in ownership. This led to a 15-story building with great views and housing for low-income seniors.

The $28.8 million project was developed by International Hotel Senior Housing, Inc., and the Chinatown Community Development Center, and it is expected to be completed by August 2005. The studio and one-bedroom units are reserved for seniors earning no more than 50% of the area median income (AMI), but they’re expected to serve seniors earning an average of 30% of AMI or less.

The old International Hotel was a three-story brick building built in 1906 that was home to many elderly Filipino and Chinese immigrants who had moved to this city’s Manilatown neighborhood. When the city experienced a downtown office boom in the 1960s, the building was purchased with the intent of building a high-rise office building, and residents were evicted.

Over the next 25 years, community leaders managed to defeat building proposals until the International Hotel Senior Housing apartments was suggested. The land was purchased by the Archdiocese, which agreed to build several separate components within the building, including the 105-unit affordable seniors housing portion. The physical building is now owned by International Hotel Senior Housing, Inc.

The project received a $15.4 million loan from the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing; an $11.1 million Sec. 202 grant; an $830,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco; and $1.5 million in corporate, foundation and individual donations to the Chinatown Community Development Center/International Hotel Senior Housing, Inc.’s capital campaign. Architects on the project were Chong Partners Architecture, Greg Roja and Associates, and Herman & Coliver: Architecture. The contractor was the James E. Roberts-Obayashi Corp.

“In a city with high costs and small lots, on a site with a powerful history for the community, where valuable housing was lost and seniors were displaced, the International Hotel project is an extraordinary achievement and a visible way of saying that housing for seniors is very important to our community,” said Teresa Yanga, senior project manager for the Office of Housing.

Amenities include a 2,400-square-foot ground-floor cultural center, a 1,700-square-foot community room, and a rooftop deck.

“The project transforms a blighted hole in the ground into much-needed very low income studio and one-bedroom apartments,” Yanga said. More than 11,000 applications were submitted for the development’s 104 units, she added.

“In addition to its impact in providing desperately needed affordable housing for seniors, the International Hotel project will play some part, through the cultural center operated by Manilatown Heritage Foundation, in maintaining the culture and educating future generations about the contributions of the Filipino-American community that was put asunder by development pressures in the 1960s and ’70s,” Yanga said.

International Hotel Senior Housing

Developers: International Hotel Senior Housing, Inc., and Chinatown Community Development Center

Number of units: 105

Number of affordable units: 104 (one reserved for manager)

Unique feature: After more than 25 years of struggling, housing advocates see affordable seniors housing reestablished near downtown San Francisco.

Key sources of financing

Residual receipts loan from San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing: $15.4 million

Department of Housing and Urban Development grant: $11.1 million

Corporate, foundation and individual donations: $1.5 million

Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco grant: $830,000

Total development cost:$28.8 million