A nonprofit serving pregnant homeless women and families in San Francisco hopes to build supportive housing to serve homeless families near its Mission District offices.
The Homeless Prenatal Program intends to turn a warehouse adjacent to their 18th Street office between Potrero Avenue and Hampshire Street into housing. The nonprofit bought the building in June for about $7 million.
The Planning Commission on Thursday unanimously voted to rezone the 2530 Bryant St. site to not only allow housing to be built there but also to require that units built on it are affordable. Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton and Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Catherine Stefani introduced legislation for the change in February.
“It’s an organization that’s been providing so much work and support for expecting mothers and mothers with very, very young children,” said Walton, who represents the area where the site is located. “Obviously, it eliminates transportation barriers, it provides them with the opportunity to be connected to resources and services that are needed. And it’s another answer to housing, particularly affordable housing in San Francisco. We know how desperately we need affordable housing.”
HPP typically refers clients to other providers, but it can be hard to ensure services around prenatal care, housing support and economic stability when clients are scattered across The City or region. The extra trip may mean families don’t make it out to receive care at the 2500 18th St. office, which is running low on space.
“It absolutely would simplify the access more,” Martha Ryan, HPP founder and executive director, said of the housing project. “If we’re going to break the cycle of homelessness and child poverty, you need housing. Housing is not enough, families need the extra support. Sometimes families have been homeless for a decade — that’s too long for children to be living under such toxic stress.”
Zoning changes originally sought to make 2500-2530 18th Street an affordable housing special use district mandating all new residential units to be affordable to households making between 30-80 percent Area Median Income, or $30,750 to $82,000 for a household of two, for at least 55 years. The site was zoned for industrial use but HPP may continue using it for storage and vaccine clinics in the meantime.
Planning staff recommended eliminating the minimum income requirement, instead of capping the income at 80 percent AMI, to prevent restricting households making less than 30 percent AMI from qualifying for housing. After some “miscommunication” on what the recommendation was, Walton agreed it was the “right” move.
HPP has not yet submitted formal plans for the project, which will be in a better position to secure financing and loans now that the nonprofit has assurances that housing can be built on the site, according to planning staff. Since moving to the current office in 2005, Ryan said she has envisioned offering more services on the adjacent site and knows she wants workforce training services on the ground floor. The
The preliminary project has overwhelming support from more than 80 people who submitted letters, including former clients, multiple UC San Francisco doctors and the group Partners in Prevention.
“This is the natural next step for Homeless Prenatal,” said Ronen, “not only to provide their top-notch services that make such a positive impact on [women’s] lives and children’s lives, but also house them. It’s a visionary organization and they’re never going to be satisfied until there is no more homelessness, especially among pregnant women.”
The zoning changes are anticipated to be heard at the Land Use and Transportation Committee within a couple months before approval by the full Board of Supervisors.