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Supportive housing proposed for homeless residents on Mission Bay lot

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An empty lot, located next to the San Francisco Police Department headquarters, where the city has proposed to build 120 studio units for the homeless is seen on Monday. (Steven Ho/Special to S.F. Examiner)

A Mission Bay lot is set to become the latest advancement in San Francisco’s effort to address homelessness.

A new 120-studio development slated for Mission Bay South Block 9, a nearly 50,000-square-foot lot behind the new Public Safety Building and Police Headquarters and adjacent to the AT&T Park event parking site Seawall 337, will house formerly homeless residents who are among the most vulnerable — at least half are expected to have mental health challenges or a disability.

The project marks the first time in nearly a decade that The City has sought proposals to build a supportive housing development for the formerly homeless. The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing collaborated with the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, which oversees Mission Bay, on the project to address the department’s need for more housing for homeless single adults in need of myriad services.

The City will use a new coordinated entry system, which is under development, to determine who among the homeless will have priority in moving into those units. The entry system is one of the first new initiatives announced by Jeff Kositsky, the director of the recently formed Department of Homelessness.

The new Mission Bay project comes at a time when resources for homeless residents are admittedly insufficient, and the homeless department plans to release by June 30 a plan detailing what resources are needed, such as supportive housing and shelter beds, to end homelessness. The plan was initially expected to be released this month.

There are an estimated 4,500 homeless persons living on the streets and 1,400 single adult shelter beds, the San Francisco Examiner previously reported. About 800 housing units to house the homeless become free annually through turnover, and as many as 18,000 homeless individuals have some contact with city services annually.

That’s even as The City has seen a 52 percent increase in the number of supportive housing beds between 2007 and 2016 for a total of 7,599, according to the Mayor’s Office.

The studios will average in size from 350 square feet to 400 square feet, according to the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, the successor of the Redevelopment Agency, which has issued a request for proposals for a nonprofit developer to build the development.

The proposal illustrates the lengthy process of securing housing for those living on the streets and what it takes to properly house that population, some of whom may suffer from mental illness and substance abuse.

Bids on the contract are due by June, and construction is expected to begin in July 2019 and conclude in May 2021.

The proposal calls for such amenities as “an exam room with a sink, conference room, waiting area, small staff break room, storage spaces (for services files as well as linens and other in-home care supplies), and a large community room and kitchen,” according to OCII documents. Consultation spaces will be designed to respect tenants’ privacy.

Financing for the development could include direct OCII subsidies, tax credits and Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Program funds.

Gail Gilman, CEO of Community Housing Partnership, a nonprofit that operates housing sites for formerly homeless with supportive services, expressed strong support of the proposal as a way to address homelessness. She told the Examiner that her organization would be bidding on it in partnership with nonprofit affordable housing developer Bridge Housing.

Gilman said the 100 percent supportive housing request for proposals was the first issued by The City since 2009. She emphasized that the most effective way to successfully house homeless residents is by creating a community of 100 percent formerly homeless residents and having “robust services” on site.

Mayor Ed Lee’s spokesperson Deirdre Hussey said in an email that “San Francisco has multiple strategies in place for supportive housing beds — including building units, master-leasing units, rental subsidies and working closely with Housing Authority to get housing placements.”

The Mayor’s Office of Housing “has been requiring 20-30 percent homeless units in its affordable housing projects to increase housing opportunities for the homeless” and there are “800 new permanent supportive units in the pipeline from 2018 to 2021,” she said in the email.

Jeff White, OCII housing program manager, said last week that The City has begun to place a “much greater focus on serving formerly homeless individuals.”

“There is a lot more individual homeless folks on the street and though we have done a very good job of providing family units — it is still a problem but the proportion of homeless people on the streets is way skewed toward individuals,” White said.

The Mission Bay South block 9 proposal is “our team pivoting and accelerating that parcel,” White said. The Mission Bay parcel is between Pier 50 and Pier 52, a block from Terry Francois Boulevard, bounded by Mission Rock and China Basin streets.

The project will count toward the required number of affordable housing units that OCII must construct in the Mission Bay area. To date, 1,048 affordable units have been completed and 868 units remain to be completed in the Mission Bay area, 29 percent out of a total 6,514 residential units planned.

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