La Fénix at 1950 provides 157 homes, including 40 units for formerly homeless families, in San Francisco's Mission District.
© Bruce Damonte La Fénix at 1950 provides 157 homes, including 40 units for formerly homeless families, in San Francisco's Mission District.

New affordable housing for families has risen in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Developed by nonprofits BRIDGE Housing and Mission Housing Development Corp., La Fénix at 1950 has transformed a former San Francisco Unified School District site into 157 homes and community-serving ground-floor space.

With a housing crisis in the Bay Area at all income levels—especially for extremely low-income households—the development is providing needed affordable housing, including 40 units for formerly homeless families, in this vibrant neighborhood with Latino roots.

San Francisco has experienced a tech boom over the past decade, and that’s contributed to higher housing costs and gentrification, according to Smitha Seshadri, executive vice president of BRIDGE Housing.

“The Mission District became one of those places where rents were becoming unaffordable to a lot of working families, and they were getting displaced,” she says. “And to see that we have some homeless units for families in this building is really going to be impactful.”

Completed in November, La Fénix at 1950 includes 155 units affordable to households earning between 45% and 60% of the area median income (AMI); two units are set aside for property management. The 40 units set aside for formerly homeless families are under 30% of the AMI, with the city providing subsidy through its Local Operating Subsidy Program.

“The most important thing is we’re housing 155 families,” says Sam Moss, executive director of Mission Housing. “But it’s always really important to demonstrate that it’s not just about the people who will live there, it’s truly for the entire neighborhood.”

Moss says the ground floor will be activated for the community, with an art gallery and free low-income artist studios, a bike repair shop run by youths, and space for the operation of Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

The crowning glory of the building, adds Seshadri, is the rooftop garden, with open space, play equipment, and views of the city skyline that families can enjoy.

“We built the rooftop to be a 10,000-square-foot meeting space for community groups in the Mission,” says Moss.

The nonprofit developers were selected through a city RFP to reposition the vacant site of the former Phoenix Continuation High School and a parking lot into affordable housing. The urban infill development is located next to transit so no parking was needed, helping it score well on competitive funding from the state’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program—part of the state’s “cap-and-trade” carbon emissions auction program, administered by the Strategic Growth Council and implemented by the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

Additional funding partners for the $100 million development include Wells Fargo as the low-income housing tax credit investor and construction lender, California Community Reinvestment Corp. as the permanent lender, the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, BNY Mellon, the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco.

Swinerton Builders served as the general contractor, with David Baker Architects and Cervantes Design Associates as the architects. On-site supportive services are provided by Mission Housing and Lutheran Social Services.

“There’s a deep breath that families take—not just winning the lottery to get a unit,” Moss says. “With Mission Housing as a landlord, they know they’re safe and won’t be evicted.”