Mayor London Breed (center) and other community leaders break ground Thursday for Casa de la Misión, a project that will provide 45 affordable housing units to previously homeless seniors. (Meyer Gorelick/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Leaders break ground for affordable housing project in the Mission

Community leaders paid homage to a center of community service that will now provide homes to homeless seniors.

Over 100 people joined Mayor London Breed Thursday afternoon for the ground breaking of an affordable housing project aimed at addressing the ongoing evictions and gentrification in the Mission.

Casa de la Misión at 3001 24th Street will provide 45 affordable housing units to previously homeless seniors.

The project aims to address the ongoing problems caused by gentrification, including evictions that the Mission neighborhood has been facing at a higher rate than any other neighborhoods in San Francisco, said community activist and “Mission Mayor” Roberto Hernandez.

“I look forward to working with [Breed] to continue the work that we’ve been doing, to continue to build affordable housing, so that we can have justice for our community who has been displaced and evicted violently,” he said.

The five-story building will be constructed on a site that has been a hub of healing and community service for decades.

Mission Neighborhood Center (MNC) bought the building in 1994 in order to prevent the eviction of a Head Start program serving 60 preschoolers as Pepsico sought to push out the toddlers to open a Taco Bell.

Mercy Housing bought the building for $3 million from MNC at the end of 2019.

MNC Chief Executive Officer Sam Ruiz said that although it was difficult to let go of the building, he is glad to turn it over to a non-profit developer who shares his goal of social justice.

Mission locals will be given priority to 40 percent of the units while the rest will be awarded on a lottery basis. The units are projected to be completed in March 2021.

Hernandez called the groundbreaking bittersweet. It marks the end of a building that housed a number of meaningful community services over the years. These include Centro de Cambio, a rehabilitation center for heroin addicts, the 24th Street Merchants Association, social services organization Horizons Unlimited, medical center La Clinica, Carnival headquarters, Head Start, and current tenant Mission Girls, a youth services organization.

“The sweetness is that in a time where we’re in crisis and we’ve had 10,000 people evicted from the Mission, 8,000 being Latinos, that we’re going to provide housing especially for seniors,” Hernandez said.

He referenced among other examples, a 73- year- old elderly women renting a walk-in closet in the Mission for $700 per month. She asked him not to report the landlord for abuse because she would be on the street if her overpriced closet became unavailable upon official investigation.

Mission Girls will move permanently to the old site of the Mission Police Station. Hernandez sees it as a symbol of restorative justice since a helping organization will move into a building that he sees as oppressive and in which he was incarcerated multiple times.

The project is being financed by the Bettye Poetz Ferguson Foundation, the National Equity Fund, Silicon Valley Bank, the Mayor’s Housing Fund, and the City Departments for Homelessness and Public Health.

Community members were skeptical of the initial proposal for six stories in a neighborhood of predominantly one and two story buildings and so the group changed the plan to five floors, Ruiz said.

“I can’t imagine anyone would dare complain,” District Nine Supervisor Hillary Ronen said when asked if there was any opposition to the project among her constituents.

MNC plans to host a hospitality workforce development program for marginalized young adults on the ground floor while the four floors above will be for the senior units.

This isn’t the only effort to build new affordable housing in the Mission. Casa Adelante broke ground in 2018 on 1296 Shotwell Avenue to provide 94 units of affordable housing, and was the first 100 percent affordable housing unit built in the Mission in a decade. Casa Adelante is expected to be finished later this year.

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