Residents and local leaders celebrated the end of two years of renovations at the reopening of the Rosa Parks Apartments, an affordable senior housing complex in the Western Addition.
The ribbon-cutting event was an upbeat affair attended by about 150 people, many being seniors eager to take advantage of the remodeled facilities. The updates included new plumbing, the Webster Street People’s Garden, an upgraded fitness center and free wifi, among other improvements.
Mayor London Breed, who grew up in the public housing project across the street, called the opening the fulfillment of an old promise and an example of her efforts to take care of the community that raised her under unacceptable circumstances.
“We never had showers, we had problems with roaches and rodents, we had mold,” she said. “We had, just the kinds of conditions that no one should ever have to live in.”
Breed discussed the long and colorful history of the building, a former public housing project which was dubbed the “Pink Palace” after its construction in 1962.
“When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, it was like, you know, we couldn’t come over here,” Breed said.
“I don’t want to go into the details and provide specific examples of what happened, because this is a celebratory day, but it was pretty bad,” she added.
Current resident Stephanie Hughes who was born and raised in The City, also recalls her mother not allowing her to go near the Pink Palace.
Because of violence, Breed said the building was condemned and shut down before being reopened in the 80s as senior housing.
Today Breed and Hughes are both aware of how much the complex has changed, going from a hub of fear and violence to a peaceful home for elderly people. Hughes is thankful that her sons, young men of color, can come visit her there and feel safe.
Breed emphasized the role the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program played in leveraging private investment in existing public housing to help make the remodel possible.
The renovations were financed by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, Bank of America, Freddie Mac and the San Francisco Housing Authority, and developed by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation and Bethel AME Church.