Rebuild Potrero Site

As we first reported earlier this week, the master plan for redeveloping the 33-acre public housing development atop Potrero Hill is ready for its first public review.  And now, it’s time to take a peek at the latest renderings for the project which will completely transform the southeast slope of Potrero Hill (and beyond).

As designed by Van Meter Williams Pollack for Bridge Housing, up to 1,700 residential units could be constructed across the 33-acre site, with buildings rising up to 65-feet in height.

In addition to the 600 public housing units which would be rebuilt, up to 450 new Below Market Rate (BMR) units and 630 market rate units would be added to the community, centered around 24th Street with up to 15,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, a 35,000 square foot Community Center, and a new 24th Street Park.

Rebuild Potrero Rendering: 24th Street Park

The rebuilt public housing units would remain subsidized by the San Francisco Housing Authority but would be managed and owned by BRIDGE Housing or related entities.  And if approved, the HOPE-ful redevelopment would occur in three phases, beginning in 2015 and spanning around 10 years in order to minimize disruption to existing residents.

53 thoughts on “The Future Of Potrero Hill’s South Slope”
  1. If there was any truth to the notion that public housing is temporary and people that get it are encouraged to work, it would be closer to the public transit and the T-line.

    Again, this land sold to market-rate developers would fetch enough money (someone please make a rough estimate) to build 10x (again, estimates?) the public housing and/or BMR housing elsewhere in the city (Bayview, Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley,e tc.). or outside the city. Who is the person that needs to answer the question about why this doesn’t happen?

    1. Great question. But it’s deeply ingrained dogma from the era of suburbanization that job-rich city centers are the best place to warehouse the terminally unemployment. While the worker bees that support them get to spend 2 hours a day commuting for the privilege.

    2. I agree that public housing makes more sense closer to public transportation but pushing more low income residents out to the already under served neighborhoods that you mention or out of the city all together to the new ghettos of the suburbs is outdated thinking that we have tried for decades with huge failure. The new idea in public housing and city planning is to create economically diverse neighborhoods which give the poor more opportunity to rise up and those of us better off a bit more skin in the game, The SE neighborhoods of SF are starting to recover after decades of neglect and building more projects down there would counteract the progress that is currently taking place and reinforce these areas as economic ghettos. Pushing them out of the city where transit is poor and jobs are scattered would be even worse. I agree that public housing should be a stepping stone but it should be done with policy not dislocation to disadvantaged areas where people have even less of a chance of making a change.

      1. New idea? No. That’s been happening for 40 years now, which is why there are section 8 homes sprinked throughout diamond Heights, garnering some of the best views in the city. The fact is, people should not be “entitled” to those homes. They’re temporary, right? And if that land was sold to market rate developers it would garner enough money to build 10x (or more ) the no, or low income housing, that, again, is suppose to be temporary. If it’s near transit, it’s not a “disadvantaged” area. In fact, some would argue it’s better to keep the low income folks from the pollution in the central city (so sayith some of the no on the waterfront folks). Again, it’s only a temporary living situation…unless, of course, you make the views and the accommodations just too darn nice to ever want to leave.

        1. Why is there an assumption that all Section 8 tenants are unemployed? Given the reality that the modern economy develops a few high paying jobs and a ton of low paying service jobs, some households working three jobs may still qualify for Section 8 subsidies. And, in the modern era, even if SOME households “transition” to higher paying jobs, the reality is there will never be enough high paying jobs for everyone and that the low paid workforce needed to “serve” the new aristocracy has to live somewhere.

          But of course, everyone who is working a low paid job always deserves to be punished in every way possible. They are not worthy of even being anywhere near glorious individuals like Grrr.

  2. Anon…public housing refers to housing owned by the SF Housing Authority. Traditionally, this housing is available on a “percent of income” basis, and can be virtually free if there is no income – federal subsidies historically picked up much of the cost. (yes, it was supposed to be “temporary”). Also, in the past, such housing was miserably managed by the SFHA (due partially to ever dropping federal subsidies since Reagan or so). In the more recent past, many of these SFHA properties have been rebuilt with federal Hope 6 money, and although still subsidized by SFHA, managed by other agencies (the old Bernal Hill Dwellings, Valencia Gardens, North Beach, Hayes Valley, etc). These new management regimes have had more teeth to keep bad people out, and, I believe, have been able to charge more than zero. The new public housing in Potrero will be much like those successful projects.

    BMR is SIMPLY private housing that has been subsidized with a mix of private and public dollars….either writing down the sales price or rental price. Because subsidy dollars are limited, BMR nearly always serves working/middle class folks, and if you can’t pay you have to leave, just like any other private housing.

  3. I think the new drawings are a better depiction of the density of these new buildings than the older renderings which, if my math is correct, is at least 4 times the present average density for San Francisco.

    1. agree that this is actually pretty dense and a good land-use in this spot. People make the mistake of associating height with density only.

      1. Good point, this is much denser than the average for SF, it will probably wind up being well over twice as dense as the SF average, which is great!

        1. Also, I think this is under the threshold where you can build with wood framing if I am not mistaken so this would be make sense as well in this location and for this type of housing

          1. It only makes sense if the market is actually preferring to build fewer units to take advantage of the cheaper building process. This seems to not actually be the case though, with current demand. I suppose my question is – why not allow taller heights and let the market decide whether or not more expensive buildings are worth it due to the level of demand?

    2. Yes, this plan is about 4 times the average SF density. If it does get built to plan at around 50 units/acres it will be about the same unit density as Russian Hill.

      What makes anyone think that the “market” hasn’t determined this project. Part of the market in this case is the owners of the property, the investors, the developers, and the local community/neighbors. They have all been thrashing this plan for years. There have been many public meetings. The project website chronicles how the plan has evolved in response to “market” input.

      1. Everything built in Stalin’s Soviet Union was merely responding to the market, according to the definition of “market” that you’ve created.

        1. In what world does the kinds of factors Jake mentions not impact development, especially at this scale and with this degree of subsidy?

          Even Houston doesn’t have a pure market system.

  4. I believe what happens in many cases with these rebuilds is they either are able to exclude the worst people in the public housing or the most unstable just disappear to Vallejo or wherever they go. Then you get a somewhat higher caliber resident that comes back. At least this is my perception of what happened with the Valencia gardens which are way better now than the old school days. I could never imagine parking my car in front of the old V Gardens to grab a pizza like I do now

  5. This can’t be built fast enough. The current buildings were built in the 40s as temporary housing for shipyard workers, and are in horrible condition (a result of poor maintenance and care by residents). This new plan looks better than the ones that were built on Cesar Chavez St., Those were made to look like townhomes when they are mainly apartments, making for odd entrances onto the street level and useless mini-porches and patios. From the renderings these buildings seem to have a logical entrance and lobby like an apartment building. Of course, the proof is in the pudding, as they say.

    1. why the jab about poor maintenance on the part of residents? Last I checked, when you rent something you aren’t responsible for building maintenance.

      1. All I meant was that some of these units have taken a lot of abuse over their 70 years, and they should be replaced. A friend of mine has worked with residents in the public housing projects, and there are plenty of horror stories. For instance, one tenant NEVER [cleaned] their kitchen, so the hood fan and counters accumulated so much grease they all had to be replaced. One tenant broke the drain pipes under the sink and tied a rag around it and never reported it, so it rotted out entire cabinet, floor, subfloor and was only reported when the ceiling fell down on the floor below.

        Of course, for every one of these there are numerous problems reported to the Housing Authority that were never fixed. Their maintenance unit is a disaster, and there is a big fight with the unions about letting less-skilled handymen make basic repairs.

      2. Ooops, re-reading my post I meant to say “poor maintenance by the Housing Authority and residents” – it’s a shared thing. Now I see why you called me out!

  6. I think it would be cool to sprinkle in a few 10+ story buildings at the top of hill. It could create a similar effect a Telegraph and Russian Hills.

    1. Agreed Sassy — it’s still the tepid 1980s suburban crowd running things in the City. Watch what happens in the next 10. And drop some even taller ones into the taxi pit.

    2. High rise or even mid rise low-income buildings are a thing of the past at least for now. These kinds of buildings were built all over the world and most notoriously in Chicago where they turned into towers of poverty and crime and a symbol of the failure of public housing. Highrises are hard to police and their hallways have historically been overtaken by drug dealers and gangs creating an environment that the police will not even enter without a SWAT team. I’m all for more density but as a former Chicagoan myself, I’m very dubious of the success of highrises and public housing.

  7. I really hope this turns out to be a successful model. Hopefully it can be an example of how to rehabilitate SFHA housing stock without displacing the population using newly created market rate housing as the financing mechanism. The Western Addition projects adjacent to Hayes Valley are an easy next target for redevelopment.

    1. Buchanan corridor or Lower Haight? You should read up on the various plans, where they sit in the cue, history, former designs, etc.

  8. Boy, we sure are a bunch of very conservative racists masquerading as free enterprisers, now aren’t we……

    1. Why do you say that? Aren’t Housing Authority residents entitled to nicer, newer apartments? And I don’t see anyone here saying that they should cut the number of low-income units here – just being supportive of using the mixed income model to help pay for the improvements.

  9. The density should be much higher ,
    SF would have done better to have sold the area to be developed and then build the 1700 units on a lot 1/2 of this size next to a rail line

  10. Yeah, Stalin was renown for his open public meetings, encouraging contrary opinions, and willingness to change his plans to please his neighbors. A real inspiration to us all.

        1. Ah, so you’re talking about political systems rather than markets. Got it. Makes more sense now.

          Every political system has a “market”, so everything everywhere is a part of a market. I assumed that we were talking about the more common definition of the market, rather than “the market includes everything that happens, so any result is obviously market-based”.

          1. Again, in what world does the “political system” not impact how cities grow? That’s just reality. Except in libertoonian fantasy worlds.

  11. A welcome improvement for a depressed area. Apart from the rundown buildings themselves, the eroded slope on the southern edge of the area plus the proximity of the 280 freeway make things worse However, the renderings don’t show how the new development will improve these two aspects, if at all. Also, there appear to be a suspiciously large number of trees and greenery, I hope it will all be planted!

  12. The transit here is not that bad. The 48 Bus to the Mission and Noe, the 19 to Market are nearby and the T is within walking distance.
    I think the new residents will prevent any drug bazaars. The new arrivals with more money and political influence will be the majority in the rebuilt developments and will not tolerate being dominated by thugs.

    1. The new arrivals will be cowed into silence or frustrated into apathy, just like the residents of houses across the street from projects in other parts of the City.

      The ratio market-rate to public-housing residents has to be higher to bring “good behavior” to a development.

  13. @minka I think the ratio of project to subsidized to normal housing is too high for that to really happen. They would need 1/6, 1/3, 1/2 for that to really have a chance. If they built with more density they could achieve his, house more poor people that they do now and still achieve that ratio.

  14. Section 8 housing has been a disaster. When you get something for nothing (or nearly nothing), you don’t take care of it and you sure as heck are going to use every means available (i.e. litigation) to stay put. The public housing up in Diamond Heights is a prime example. Generations live together. One, two, sometimes three cars per unit. Are these people truly poor and/or disabled? They don’t look so at the Safeway nearby, buying groceries with SNAP cards, booze and cigarettes with cash. I couldn’t afford a place with the views they have.

  15. I love how the rendering assumes the I-280 freeway is removed and replaced with a surface level street. How are are these new residents going to get to southbay destinations? Google Bus driving down Third Street?

  16. What’s the latest on this? The website has not been updated since the middle of 2017. Any insights @socketsite?

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