121 Golden Gate Avenue Rendering: Golden Gate Avenue Elevation

The proposed project [at 121 Golden Gate Avenue] would consist of the demolition of an existing 40‐foot‐high building and the construction of a new 99‐foot‐high, ten‐story building with one basement level, containing a total of approximately 109,375 gross square feet (gsf) comprising a kitchen/dining hall, philanthropic/social services, and 90 affordable senior housing units. No off‐street parking would be provided with the project.


The existing two‐story, approximately 42,468‐gsf building on the site was constructed in 1912, and contains a dining hall/kitchen, philanthropic/social services space, and accessory office space.


The project would require Conditional Use authorization for construction of a building exceeding a height of 40 feet, for the elimination of off‐street parking, for setback requirements, for rear yard requirements, and for establishment of a social service or philanthropic facility above the ground floor. The project would also require a variance for loading and approval of a subdivision into two air rights parcels.

The St. Anthony Foundation and Mercy Housing are the project sponsors, the architect is Hardison Komatsu Ivelich & Tucker, and the estimated cost of construction $39,000,000.

Project construction is expected to occur over a period of approximately 20 months, with demolition, foundation reconstruction, and site grading occurring over a period of three months. Construction is anticipated to begin during the fall of 2010.

And as the reality and renderings show, “The proposed project would retain or replace the single street tree along the Jones Street frontage of the site, as well as add up to nine street trees to the front of the property.”
Yes please (and not just with respect to the trees).
121 Golden Gate Avenue Notice Of Environmental Impact Report (EIR) []

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by stucco-sux

    No parking whatsoever? That seems silly. I guess the assumption is if they’re old and poor they must do as we order them to do, not what they might want to do.
    Cue rants by transit fascists…

  2. Posted by CameronRex

    I doubt this is an attempt to dictate to the old and poor. The goal appears to be the provision of a nice place to live for less-advantaged seniors.
    This area is served well by transit. There is a cost associated with building underground parking; it isn’t free. Money saved can be focused on the living units.
    Could there be a component to the plan to discourage car ownership? Sure. Limits on parking spaces for market rate units do the same thing.
    But, stucco-sux, maybe you are correct and the St Anthony Foundation and Mercy Housing just want to bully a bunch of old people.

  3. Posted by mwsf

    I am sure that after building multiple projects in our great city, Mercy Housing has the experience to know that car parking is not a huge need of the target demographic.

  4. Posted by curmudgeon

    OK, I guess I’m a transit fascist then.
    Succo-sux, these are affordable housing units located directly on top of Saint Anthony’s dining hall (soup kitchen….notice the line of poor folks in the image the editor attached). You really think that folks living there will have the means to own a car? That is not quite the clientel that St. Anthony’s and Mercy are targetting here. Please get a clue.

  5. Posted by BobN

    One of my long-standing pet peeves is the sprinkling of an unrealistic number of human figures in architectural renderings. You know what I mean, those imaginary street views of suburban developments with kids trying out their training wheels with dad while Mrs. Smith tends to her roses across the street as the Joneses — all five of them — stroll down the sidewalk engaged in happy family discourse and the mailman busily makes his rounds with a jaunty wave to said Joneses. Etc., etc., all to give the impression that the streets won’t be utterly devoid of life anytime a resident looks out his or her window.
    The rendering for this building seems to reverse the concept. I think my pet peeve just developed a sub-peeve.
    Either that or the lines for the philanthropic/social services is what the single-story basement is for.

  6. Posted by one legged person living in SF

    At the same time ten years ago some friends and I moved to california from a pro-transit city in asia. My friends settled in Santa Monica and used a borrowed car for a few months. When my friend’s landlord found out they did not own a car he said, “Not having a car in LA is like having only one leg!”
    I never though this statement applied to SF. But after reading comment after comment on this site, I would think is does apply to SF.
    one legged person living in SF

  7. Posted by Eric in SF

    one legged – I promise, you can live in San Francisco car-free and still be a productive, happy member of Society. I know, because I’ve been one for the last 9 years.
    Renting a car works for when I need to escape and when car-sharing arrived, I quickly joined, but I live my daily life just fine and with a positive quality of life without car.

  8. Posted by transitfascist

    Why are we shoving our seniors into one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America? Absurd. (Yay no parking!)

  9. Posted by SFRE

    @transitfascist: Why are you assuming it will continue to be dangerous, the city government will change in a few years, and just watch how this will turn around!! And why would you discriminate against a dangerous area, people will still need a place to live.

  10. Posted by transitfascist

    @SFRE lol you’re funny!

  11. Posted by new2SF

    @one legged: You can also live in SF and own a car and be a perfectly good human being. Trust me, you’re not evil if you own a car. I own one and look at me;
    my daily life is just fine, and I have a great positive life. I’m not going to cycle, because it’s too dangerous and the hills are impossible to climb with 5 bags of groceries from Whole Foods. I rarely take muni cause it’s not dependable. I do walk a lot and love it. But my car serves me well, when I need my own personal transport on a cold, rainy nite to get somewhere too.

  12. Posted by Mark Ballew

    90 senior housing units and the associated tenants are going to be much more useful to the recovery of the TL than the existing building. Go St. Anthony Foundation and Mercy Housing, invest in our neighborhoods!

  13. Posted by whatever

    39 million, 435,000 per unit to build affordable probably one bedroom units. Who pays for this? Taxpayers? Couldn’t a few existing buildings be purchased at current low prices and be rehabbed to create some affordable housing without burning through so much taxpayer capital. No doubt a big fat union job is involved and a bunch of alleged non-profit execs are also getting fat salaries out of this one.

  14. Posted by new2SF

    no, whatever: that won’t work.
    Cost per square foot to rehab older buildings would be much more than a new one.
    You would have substandard floor plans, possibly few units per floor, etc.
    Investing in senior housing and affordable housing is a good use of taxpayer revenues.

  15. Posted by BobN

    39 million
    Weren’t Lembi properties going for a lot less than $400K per unit?

  16. Posted by whatever

    the net result of this project is actually only 47,000 square feet of livable residential space and no parking, an average of 522 sq ft. per unit. That translates to a construction cost of 430,000 per door for 522 sq ft which is $830 per sq ft. It’s a much higher construction cost than a market rate developer would budget for large luxury condo’s. You can’t even sell most luxury condo’s right now for $830 per sq ft. This could be achieved much more economically but no one cares. Too may people feeding out of the trough. We need senior housing for the needy but there is a better way.

  17. Posted by SFRE

    @whatever: Very good point!! Another example of how incentives to private industry is better than public management of projects like this.

  18. Posted by new2SF

    Well, whatever…you’re rather simplifying the statistics.
    Building on a very tight, busy urban site is extremely expensive, getting equipment in and out and storing of materials. This is not a simple, suburban lot.
    Materials and finishes for this type of building should be high quality, and intended to last. The seismic/structural requirements are complex and costly.
    The building looks like the kind of high end housing one sees on Rincon Hill, urban appropriate and skillfully designed.
    And why shouldn’t it be so, for senior housing as well.?

  19. Posted by whatever

    I believe in senior housing, and I am not simplifying the statistics. Those are the prices. I am in the construction field. You cannot sell to many 520 sq ft condos for $830 per sq ft right now. That is how much it is costing to build them. Where is the profit? Market rate builders would need to hard cost construction of a 522 sq ft unit to be around 160,000 then when land and all the other City fees including building below market rate units are included they could sell it for a reasonable profit for around 430k and then pay 50% income taxes on that.
    I’m just pointing our how much this costs for such a small amount of return. Who pays for this?

  20. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    whatever and bobN highlight that once again development costs for projects like this now seem to be higher than market rate. The only organizations that are funding new infill projects like this seem to be non-profits. The change in plans to the HopeSF project that delayed market rate units was another.

  21. Posted by Oceangoer

    The good news is its right near Hollywood Billiards. I would love to live that close to good pool tables. Yup, I am a senior.

  22. Posted by Scooter

    What Whatever is highlighting is true for cost per door, but the project, and its cost, is not just senior housing. Building the room for the associated services costs money too, quite a lot I’d think, and this is included in the total construction costs. You can’t just divide total costs/square footage of units and come up with the cost/psf of a unit.
    Also, isn’t senior housing more expensive to build? My grandmother lived in an (admittedly high-end) senior project for pre-assisted living types in downtown San Mateo, and it was built like a handicapped facility, with more railings that normal, wider hallways, etc. It included things like panic buttons in every room, and video cameras so that the supportive staff could check to see that people were OK when they couldn’t be reached.

  23. Posted by Whole Wheat Toast

    I don’t see why they couldn’t decide on an adaptive reuse…

  24. Posted by BobTheBuilder

    whatever: your analysis is correct – the feather-bedding of “non-profit” developments is well proven by statistics over the last 20 years in SF (you call it “feeding at the trough” which is an apt metaphor): typical numbers show a per-square-foot cost approximately 30-40% higher than similar developments by for-profit builders. Such is the rip-off of the taxpayers that is promoted by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and its boosters in city politics.

  25. Posted by SFRE

    @new2SF: I would tend to believe over a contractor/builder on topics regarding the cost of construction. Once again, the city ripping off the taxpayers.
    At $830 psft, when property is selling now at $650/sqft (in better areas), is a ridiculous waste of money.

  26. Posted by Scooter

    BobTheBuilder — why is this particular development a taxpayer ripoff? I just went through the St. Anthony’s financials, and they do not appear to receive any city funding. Mercy Housing receives about 10% of their capital development money in government grants, but it’s not outlined from where (a total of $2.8M nationwide in its last financial statement).
    Is the city paying for this in some way? It looked to me like it is being funded through the St Anthony’s capital campaign, but this is the first I’ve heard of the project so know nothing more than I googled in about 10 minutes.

  27. Posted by new2SF

    Good points, Scooter. I agree, and yes senior housing, by and large, is more expensive to build than non senior housing.
    I am also in the construction industry, so I know the numbers and complexities of building in dense urban areas. It’s just expensive, period.
    But it’s nice to know that more of this type of housing, well built and well designed is happening for seniors and others less fortunate in our great city. Keep up the good work.

  28. Posted by whatever

    Bottom line…… 39 million just to construct housing for 90 people in 520 sq ft units!! That’s only just the construction cost, how much does it cost to operate? Low to no income senior housing is more expensive to build than market rate housing? It certainly shouldn’t be. Whether its city tax funds or state tax credits that money came from somewhere and it isn’t from the seniors moving in there or their families. How do they decide who the lucky 90 are?

  29. Posted by diemos

    And Detroit had, what? A million unused housing units that we just tore down?
    We could have given a million seniors a house for free. Instead we’ll spend 39 million to give 90 seniors a place to live.

  30. Posted by Scooter

    LOL. 3,000, but don’t let the facts get in the way of a good rant.

  31. Posted by diemos

    ^ That’s just this year. Detroit has been shrinking for a long time.

  32. Posted by NoeValleyJim

    Wow, the car fetishists are out in force. The very first rant even. Now they even want low income seniors to help subsidize their life style.

  33. Posted by JimBobJones

    “Wow, the car fetishists are out in force.”
    Of all the communities I take part, I’ve generally found SocketSite to be the most anti-car. So it’s in the eyes of the beerholder here.

  34. Posted by Charles

    Diemos, there is no “WE” paying for this unless you are a contributor to the St. Anthony Foundation capital campaign. I worked for the Franciscans at St. Boniface a few years ago and I can assure you that 1) there will be no taxpayer money used to construct this building; 2) no nonprofit execs will be lining their own pockets (since many St. Anthony “execs” are Franciscan brothers who took a vow of poverty) and 3) the 39 million cost is justified in that there will be housing units constructed specifically for the needs of seniors (i.e. at a slightly higher cost than regular, non-special needs housing) PLUS needed spaces for senior services, recreation, etc. St. Anthony Foundation built senior housing just up the street on Golden Gate (at Larkin/Hyde) about a decade ago, and they feed 2000+ people a day. Trust me, this is a very good thing that folks needn’t be cynical about.

  35. Posted by diemos

    I reiterate. If that 39M were deployed buying houses in florida you could give about 390 seniors their own house rather than 90 seniors an apartment. It’s about efficient use of available resources.
    What’s the motivation to house a few people in the second most expensive place in the US when you could help so many more people by housing them in the cheap places?

  36. Posted by anon

    I assume the local charity wants to provide services locally? I suppose if they wanted to spend the money to set up a satellite office in Florida, they could then ship all of the money raised here to Florida, and then ship all needy folks there too.
    Sounds realistic, eh?
    If we were talking about a national charity, it might be a little different.

  37. Posted by SFRE

    I agree with diemos….there are much cheaper areas to build this facility in the bay area. Does it need to be directly in SF? A terrible waste of resources.

  38. Posted by anon

    It works like this – local charities serve the same areas that they try to get donations from. People like to SEE where their donations are going. If you want to start a charity that accepts SF dollars, sends those dollars to Florida, then sends Bay Area seniors to Florida to live, be my guest. You probably won’t be able to raise 10% as much, and thus would be helping the same (or fewer) number of people. People aren’t economic robots – they want to see and be able to participate in things around them.
    On a global scale, wouldn’t it always make sense to send money to charities operating in Africa? Costs much less there, and you can help more people per dollar. We could also send people from the US who need help there, and save money. Wonder why that doesn’t happen?

  39. Posted by kathleen

    520 Sq feet is too small. This housing is muched needed, but by making the spaces a little bit larger and airier, the long term effect of the housing will increase in desirablity not only of this senoir housing project but also the surrounding area. Building units to the size of SRO squeezes out more needed housing.
    Making the homes too small to allow inhabitants to invite socialization into the home just adds to elderly isolation. This population stays home. Let grandma have enough space to have the grandkids, or the neighbors over for dinner or a round of Bridge.

  40. Posted by Kathleen

    shipping people offt o live in other places because it works for agrand plan of how this society should work so we are not burdened with the sick, the elderly and the disenfranchised, bad typists?
    We can ship via rail. First round them up at conveinent transportation rail locations, chip them so we will know if they attempo to come back from detroit or africa. or florida, or outside las vegas.
    People, what are you thinking?

  41. Posted by diemos

    Hmmmmm? I’m thinking that we have a lot of people to take care of and limited resources.

  42. Posted by anon

    Again, diemos, I think you have a point with regards to the policies of national charities, the federal government, or even the state government. But this is a local charity, funded by local people, with the STATED INTENT of helping local people.

  43. Posted by diemos

    ^Understood and agreed.

  44. Posted by wheelchairgirl

    Wow, some of y’all are determined to pack all the seniors off Somewhere Else. No old people in my backyard!
    Senior housing does cost more. It’s the same for disabled housing. The one thing I wish is that nonprofits providing senior housing would also be required to make their units available to needy non-senior physically disabled folks who need the grab rails and wheelchair access. There’s next to no affordable accessible housing in this town that isn’t for seniors.
    And costs have cone up even for “real” units, as anyone who’s been paying attention to the problems getting financing should be aware.
    Transitfascist – SHOVING our seniors into this neighborhood? (Your spurious “most dangerous neighborhood” comment aside.) You do know that this area is full of SROs which are full of seniors who live there because it’s all their Social Security and Section 8 will pay for? Trust me, seniors already live in that neighborhood, and will line up around the block for new safe construction that meets their needs, instead of having to drag their walkers up staircases built in 1930.

  45. Posted by georgekaplan

    California Department of Housing and Community Development no doubt funded some of this project. They are notorious for NOT questioning high development costs. They give nonprofit builders whatever they want. Land values are always inflated because the developers purchase the land from themselves using a different entity name. Development costs are suspected of being inflated too. It’s been a scam for a very long time:(

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