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City pulls funding from 150-unit Forest Hill affordable housing project, citing pushback from neighbors

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City officials have pulled their support from an affordable housing plan for seniors at the site of the Forest Hill Christian Church. (File photo by Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

The City quietly told developers this week that it will no longer fund a 150-unit affordable senior housing project proposed in the wealthy Forest Hill neighborhood, citing rising costs and neighborhood pushback.

Supervisor Norman Yee, whose backing was seen as key for the project to move forward, also announced Thursday he will pull his support for the project.

The housing project was proposed by nonprofit developer Christian Church Homes at the site of Forest Hill Christian Church, at 250 Laguna Honda Blvd., and would have provided homes for 120 low-income seniors and 30 seniors who have experienced homelessness.

The project was among the first wave of intended recipients of Proposition A money, a $310 million housing bond to create affordable housing that voters approved in November 2015. It is largely linked to the late Mayor Ed Lee’s call to create and rehabilitate 30,000 homes across San Francisco.

But the Christian Church Homes project met challenges when a geotechnical report by Langan Engineers earlier this year found a nearby slope to be unstable, which would have cause the cost of the project to rise by $1.5 million, according to The Mayor’s Office of Housing.

Neighbors have also railed against the project at community meetings since 2016 when the project was first funded, claiming impoverished tenants at the affordable housing project would endanger their neighborhood.

The Mayor’s Office of Housing Director Kate Hartley cited engineering and neighbor opposition, among other reasons, when telling the developer The City would pull support of the project.

There were “many individuals who opposed the project from its inception and demonstrated a strong desire to block it,” Hartley wrote in a March 7 letter to Christian Church Homes, to explain why The City would no longer help fund the project.

That opposition would likely have resulted in a “protracted entitlement conflict” that would add cost and time to the project, she wrote.

Yee said “some of the anger was based on fear, and some of it was based on some real issues, like houses falling off a cliff because of the instability of the hill.”

Still, some of that anger did revolve around tenants.

At a Nov. 2016 Forest Hill Association meeting, the Board of Directors voted to oppose the 150 units of affordable housing and said the development was “out of character” with Forest Hill’s single family home zoning.

As the San Francisco Examiner previously reported, parents worried that the new development would house “severely mentally ill” and “severely drug addicted” people.

“What resources will you deploy 24 hours a day to make sure my 11-year-old is safe?” one mother asked at the meeting. She declined to be identified, citing her job as a tech worker.

Yes in My Backyard leader Laura Foote Clark said those neighbors played a key role in killing the funding for the project.

“Neighbors used a classic tactic — they disgustingly ‘concern-trolled’ it to death,” she said.

“Now,” she added, those seniors “will no longer be formerly homeless, they will continue to be homeless.”

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