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SF’s first ever Navigation Center shut down to make way for affordable housing

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San Francisco opened its first Navigation Center in the Mission in March 2015. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco’s first ever Navigation Center closed Wednesday to make way for an affordable housing project that will begin construction in December.

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee approved funding on Thursday for that project at 1950 Mission Street — a 155-unit affordable housing development for tenants earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income. Forty of the units will house homeless families.

The site was formerly owned by the San Francisco Unified School District, which left it sitting unused for years, and transferred to The City in 2014. While the Mayor’s Office of Housing was searching for an affordable housing developer for the site, San Francisco decided to experiment with a Navigation Center, a shelter offering more flexible rules that allow residents to keep their pets, possessions and partners with them, as well as increased services and support intended to help get them into permanent housing.

The 75-bed center officially opened in March 2015 under the late Mayor Ed Lee and former homeless czar Bevan Dufty, with the support of then-Supervisor David Campos.

The City has since opened other Navigation Centers, including one nearby at Division Circle, which was opened in August with 126 beds.

Supervisor Sandra Fewer praised the new development. She recalled when she was serving on the school board, she found out an early proposal for the site was for 130 market-rate condos.

“I freaked out, quite frankly,” Fewer said. She said she banded together with housing advocates to defeat that proposal and ensure an affordable housing project came to be instead.

“I am just over the moon that we are doing this,” Fewer said. “Public land should be for public good.”

Bridge Housing will manage the affordable housing and Mission Housing will manage the commercial and community spaces, including a child care center, art studios, art gallery, a bicycle repair shop and a cafe, said Amy Chan, of the Mayor’s Office of Housing. There is 152,244 square feet of residential area and 8,330 square feet of non-residential area.

According to documents from the Mayor’s Office of Housing, the “total project costs, including the cost to acquire the land and construct a new building, will be approximately $115,665,283 or $736,722 per dwelling unit.” In addition to the 155 unit for tenants, there are two staff units. The apartment sizes are expected to be 32 studios, 36 one-bedroom units, 73 two-bedroom units and 16 three-bedroom units.

The funding sources include federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, state loans and grants, developer equity and Mayor’s Office of Housing financing, according to the budget analyst report.

Data provided by the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing shows the Navigation Center has served more than 2,000 homeless persons since its opening in March 2015. More than half, some 1,177, were placed on buses heading out of San Francisco to stay with friends or family elsewhere through the Homeward Bound program.

Of the remaining 1,027, 26 percent were housed, 7 percent transferred to other temporary places, 33 percent left on their own, 23 percent reached the end of their time-limited stay and 12 percent had to leave due to violence or other rule violations.

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